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Impacts of sea-level rise on the tidal reach of California coastal rivers using the Coastal Storm Modeling System (CoSMoS)

May 26, 2020

In coastal rivers, the interactions between tides and fluvial discharge affect local ecology, sedimentation, river dynamics, river mouth configuration, and the flooding potential in adjacent wetlands and low-lying areas. With sea-level rise, the tidal reach within coastal rivers can expand upstream, impacting river dynamics and increasing flood risk across a much greater area. Rivers along the Pacific coast of California are constrained by coastal mountain ranges, in contrast to the typical large and low-gradient river deltas and estuaries often used in tidal reach studies. Yet, the impacts of tides are ever-present and considerable to these rivers' habitats and neighboring communities. The impacts of a range of sea-level rise, discharge, and coastal storm conditions on the upstream extent of a spring tidal influence and the associated flood potential are assessed for several coastal rivers across California using coupled Delft3D FLOW-WAVE hydrodynamic simulations that explicitly account for the interactions between waves, currents, surge, and water levels in this study. Projected changes in tidal reach among the various rivers are characterized and implications for adjacent communities and stakeholders are discussed.