UC Berkeley Student advocates construction of Emeryville ‘barrier beach’ to protect mudflats from rising sea levels

1 min read

Ground Up, a UC Berkeley student journal of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, recently published an online article advocating for a radical approach to protecting our mudflats from rising sea levels.

The project dubbed ‘LEAP’ (Live Edge Adaptation Project) by Ph.D student Nate Kauffman would construct a ‘barrier beach’ from roughly the tip of our Marina to the Bay Bridge toll plaza.

The renderings also showcase a path through the marshland that would allow closer human observation with our marsh and its protected bird populations that he hopes will help “cultivate a culture of human beings as ecological architects committed to social and environmental justice.”

Kauffman advocates for protecting what he refers to as one of “the East Bays’ most critical infrastructures.” He, like many, forecast that our shorelines will be imperiled by the impacts of climate change and that radical ideas need to be explored to counter this. “By constructing a barrier beach complex and shallowing the currently under-performing basin, a massive expansion of the tidal marsh and its commensurate flood protection capacity is possible.”

Kaufmann touches on the history of our shoreline and how more than century of industrial pollution and infill devastated the ecology of the bay. This prompted conservation efforts by advocacy groups like Save the Bay to restore and protect them. Now these shorelines face a more ominous and existential threat.



Sea level rise is becoming an increasing concern for many Bay Area residents, community leaders, and resource managers. BCDC’s (Bay Conservation and Development Commission) Adapting to Rising Tides Program is taking steps to address this threat by provide data to help identify communities that will be vulnerable to these threats including ours.

The Union of concerned Scientists (UCS) recently published a sobering report and interactive map visualizing the impact of rising sea levels from climate change.


LEAP warns that historical engineering solutions are failing and no longer sustainable and that new cutting edge solutions like this need to be embraced. Through “green infrastructure innovations,” LEAP advocates for embracing natural shore forms and a massive expansion and enhancement of habitat and human spaces.

Kaufmann provided a stern warning of the impacts of doing nothing if/when predictions by scientists come to fruition. “Without proactive environmental engineering measures to restore and build the live edge, and the political will to advance these approaches, our marshes will drown and our mudflats will become open water—the most dangerous condition for any shoreline society to cope with.”

Read more on GroundUpJournal.org/leap →


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Rob Arias

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who lived in Emeryville from 2003 to 2021. Rob founded The E'ville Eye in 2011 after being robbed at gunpoint and lamenting the lack of local news coverage. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.

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