By Alex Lunine, Resilient Communities Program Manager

Resilient Communities Program Manager Alex Lunine (left) instructs Suisun City interns on how to lead a Flood Walk

Suisun residents place a high value on their community’s natural beauty, its diversity, and its tight-knit network of publicly active residents. Despite these communal strengths, participants in a collective dialogue on environmental resilience determined that climate change, flooding, wildfires, windstorms and earthquakes all pose a significant threat to their neighborhoods.

Sustainable Solano, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, hosted a Community Resilience Building Workshop with more than 20 concerned community members, local officials and environmental professionals to strategize and collaboratively discuss solutions to the environmental hazards facing Suisun City. The June 15 workshop was held virtually, over Zoom, and was led by Dr. Adam Whelchel of The Nature Conservancy.

A core team of seven dedicated community members and local officials was instrumental in putting the workshop together. This team networked to bring a broader coalition of concerned residents to the meeting, identified community priorities, served as leaders during the workshop’s dialogues, and are continuing their efforts to ensure the findings are spread to the rest of Suisun City.

Those who attended the workshop lent their expertise, community knowledge, and passion to the conversations surrounding environmental resilience. The discourse spanned from wildfires to wind storms to flooding, and the ways in which Suisun City can tackle these environmental hazards as a community.

Flooding poses a unique obstacle for Suisun. The city, built atop and adjacent to the Suisun Marsh (the largest brackish estuarine ecosystem on the West Coast), is expected to see a rise of 6-11 inches in water level by 2030, up to 23 inches by 2050, and in a worst-case scenario, up to 66 inches by 2100. Just an additional 12 inches of water level — be it by sea level rise, storm surges, or king tides — will begin to cause flooding of the marshes and roadways. If no action is taken, residents in flood-vulnerable areas will experience unavoidable flooding of their homes at 24 inches. As sea level continues to rise over the coming decades, more and more of Suisun will find itself underwater. This issue represented the bulk of the problem-solving efforts by the workshop participants.

To learn more about the flood risks facing Suisun, join SuSol’s Flood Walks, where we give guided tours of areas vulnerable to flooding around the city. The next Flood Walk will be at 10 am Sunday, August 14. You can register here.

By evaluating Suisun City’s strengths and areas for improvement, workshop participants compiled a priority list of actionable plans. A few of the highest priority actions included

  • Access grants to install preventative flood infrastructure such as living-levees and critical pump stations;
  • Implement hazard and warning signs along flood-prone roadways to increase public awareness;
  • Bring findings to City Council to get flooding prevention measures enacted and to incorporate successful actions by neighboring Bay Area communities;
  • Secure funds to continue vulnerability assessments and planning over the next 10 years;
  • Develop an action list to combat wildfires that manages open and vulnerable spaces adjacent to Suisun City.

This group conversation led to a summary report published by The Nature Conservancy. Moving forward, Sustainable Solano and the core team hope to use this document to ensure awareness of the environmental hazards facing Suisun and to provide pragmatic solutions that protect the whole community.

This workshop would not have been possible without the hard work of the workshop’s facilitation team, who mediated and conducted conversations between participants, and the Resilient Neighborhood program interns, who diligently transcribed the dialogue for the final report.

We look forward to sharing more with the community about the report in the months ahead.