Port of San Francisco, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Release Draft Plan to Build the City’s Flood Defenses Against Sea Level Rise and Flooding


Incorporating more than six years of technical work and public input, the Draft Plan signals the federal government’s interest and approach to building a resilient shoreline

Today, the Port of San Francisco and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announce a milestone in the San Francisco Waterfront Flood Study: the release of the Draft Plan, which proposes flood defenses to address sea level rise along the Port’s 7.5-mile jurisdiction from Aquatic Park to Heron’s Head Park. The release signals the start of a public comment period, which will help inform the Draft Plan’s analysis and design refinements.

Incorporating more than six years of technical work and public input, the Draft Plan signals the federal government’s interest and approach to building a resilient shoreline, which has an initial approximate cost of $13 billion (cost estimate is preliminary and subject to change). If the project is approved by Congress after this period of input and further development, the federal government would pay 65% of the cost of implementing the Draft Plan.

The Draft Plan is part of the San Francisco Waterfront Flood Study, a collaboration between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the City to analyze coastal flood risks and effects of sea level rise within the Port’s jurisdiction over the next 100 years. Models show that without intervention, flooding from rising sea levels could result in more than $23 billion in damages on Port property and in adjacent neighborhoods over the next century.

“The release of today’s Plan is not just timely, but crucial. San Francisco is breathtakingly beautiful for its rolling hills and stunning coastline,” said Mayor London Breed. “But San Francisco is also vulnerable for these same reasons, with sea levels expected to rise 3 to 7 feet over the next century. The Draft Plan is the next step towards a landmark investment in the nation’s large -scale resilience efforts, prioritizing nature-based solutions, public access to the waterfront, and defending housing, historic landmarks, and other assets that we all value.”

“The century-old Embarcadero Seawall provides a crucial foundation for our City: protecting our families, businesses and streets from flooding,” Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi said. “As we face an intensifying climate crisis, and an ever-present earthquake risk, the release of this Draft Plan brings us a step closer to shoring up our Seawall. In doing so, we will ensure that the billions of dollars in economic activity, our critical transportation infrastructure and many of our most iconic destinations continue to stand strong for decades to come.”

“This Plan will be a catalyst for a more resilient San Francisco, spurring investments into projects that ensure a great public waterfront for decades to come,” said Port of San Francisco Director Elaine Forbes. “The Draft Plan features the tailored approaches we need to plan for the dynamic future conditions sea level rise presents. We are excited to reach today's milestone in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and are ready for public engagement to help us further refine our approach.”

The Draft Plan

The Draft Plan indicates approximately where to build flood and seismic defenses, how high to build flood defenses, and how much space to use. It includes a monitoring and adaptation plan to track sea level rise and global climate change, allowing defenses to be adapted to higher water levels if needed.

While the Draft Plan lays out the general foundation for future design and construction, more specific elements will be determined in future stages. The Draft Plan, for example, does not include detailed designs for flood or seismic defenses, designs for streets, open spaces, and public infrastructure.

In future work the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Port will prepare an implementation plan that will include size of projects and timing of investments. This implementation plan will be designed to work in tandem with state and local public and private partners, to protect the waterfront from sea level rise, and to keep the waterfront vibrant today and for future generations.

“This body of work meets the moment we’re in by addressing the risks of today and positions the City to adapt to unknown risks of tomorrow,” said Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis. “Today’s announcement marks a historic milestone here in San Francisco that will have ripple effects on waterfronts across California and the rest of the country for generations to come.”

“This multi-agency resiliency project has been years in the making, and we have the voters of San Francisco to thank for the initial down payment of this Draft Plan with their passage of Prop A’s 2018 Seawall bond,” said Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, who also represents the northeast waterfront. “The work outlined in the Draft Plan will help model a critical, long -term plan for sea-level rise, climate change and core asset protection not just for San Francisco’s waterfront, but our entire region.”

Draft Plan Development

The Draft Plan is the result of years of technical work and public outreach. Under the leadership of Speaker Emerita Pelosi, Senator Dianne Feinstein and then -Senator Kamala Harris, Congress in 2018 appropriated funds to begin the San Francisco Waterfront Coast Flood Study. Two years later the Port released the results of the Proposition A-funded Multi-Hazard Risk Assessment, which provided a comprehensive understanding of existing earthquake and flood risks along the Embarcadero. In 2022, the Port developed seven strategies to mitigate the impacts of flooding and earthquakes. Throughout the process, public input helped shape and refine options. The Draft Plan reflects public priorities and feedback on the Draft Strategies for a resilient waterfront.

Even as the Draft Plan discusses ways to adapt the shoreline to withstand sea level rise, the Port separately has identified several early projects that can address the areas of highest earthquake and sea level rise risk. Funding from the Proposition A general obligation bond, which San Francisco voters approved in November 2018, will advance those projects.

Draft Plan Next Steps

After collecting public input on the Draft Plan this winter and spring, Port and Army Corps of Engineers staff will further refine the plan and develop a Recommended Plan by the end of 2025 that will be sent to Congress for authorization. If approved, the federal government will contribute 65% of the total cost of building the proposed coastal flood defenses, potentially up to billions of dollars. In 2025 and 2026, staff will continue ongoing planning of urban design features to inform pre -construction, engineering, and design.

“Vital public transit services like BART and Muni are vulnerable to flooding from sea level rise,” said State Senator Scott Wiener. “This moment represents a significant opportunity to secure federal funding and fortify resilience for critical infrastructure that commuters rely on.”

While construction of a project is still a decade away and projects will take multiple decades to deliver, the release of the Draft Plan represents an important milestone in the city’s ongoing commitment to defend our city and waterfront against sea level rise and stormwater flooding. The comments gathered during this public comment period will help refine the plan, helping us move on to the engineering, design, and construction phases in coming years.

“From flooding to water intrusion into critical infrastructure, climate change and sea -level rise has a profound impact on our shoreline and waterfront. This Draft Plan and the federal interest it represents could mean billions of dollars of investment to mitigate damage and ensure our City’s resilience,” said City Administrator Carmen Chu. “I thank the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and Port staff for recognizing the importance of this work and for their strong collaboration in developing and further refining this plan.”

“We have enjoyed a strong partnership with the City and the Port of San Francisco,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tulsa District Commander Col. Tim Hudson. “We look forward to our ongoing partnership and to hearing from the public as we develop an enduring engineering solution to lower risk and best serve the community.”

Public Input

The public is invited to hear about the Draft Plan in one of several ways, including:

  • Visit the Port’s website at sfport.com/wrp
  • Attend one of four in-person open houses in the following neighborhoods:
    • Mission Bay/Mission Creek at Atwater Tavern (Feb. 26)
    • Islais Creek/Bayview at Southeast Community Center (Feb. 27)
    • Fisherman’s Wharf at Pier 39 (Feb. 28)
    • Embarcadero at the Exploratorium (Feb. 29)
  • Attend a presentation to your neighborhood or community group. Email us at wrp@sfport.com to request a presentation

Comments can be sent in the following ways:

  • By email to SFWFRS@usace.army.mil
  • By mail to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tulsa District, ATTN: RPEC—SFWS, 2488 E 81st Street, Tulsa, OK 74137

The public comment period, which ends March 29, 2024, is part of the National Environmental Policy Act process required to be followed by all federal agencies. All comments submitted during this outreach period will be reviewed and addressed in the final Report and Environmental Impact Statement. The Final Report and EIS is anticipated to be released for final review in the summer of 2025. Comments received after the comment period are still valuable because Port and Army Corps of Engineers staff will consider them as they further refine the Draft Plan.