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Feinstein and Silicon Valley Leaders Mobilize to Prevent Flooding

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    NEWSLETTERS

    For once, someone is taking an active role to prevent a disaster rather than responding to one. U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein is leading an effort to build new levees and restore wetlands in San Francisco Bay to keep water from flooding nearby communities.

    She is not alone.

    For nearly 100 years, levees have prevented such a catastrophe, but many are now worn and on the verge of collapse.

    The levees are important because some parts of Silicon Valley that they protect are as much as 13 feet below sea level.

    Add to that the forecast that the sea level will rise more than a foot over the next few decades and the likelihood of disaster grows even more. And the fact that this part of the state has an array of active earthquake faults only increases the potential for ruination.

    Much is at stake with the Feinstein initiative. Major infrastructure components such as the three major airports, highways, and power plants ring the bay. 

    In addition, dozens of major high tech companies reside near the water's edge including Facebook, Google, Intuit, Yahoo, Dell, and Cisco, just to name a few.

    These and other companies could suffer terribly in the absence of repair.

    The cost of the repairs is estimated at $1.5 billion, a lot of dough at as time when all levels of government are struggling to keep "above water," financially speaking. But that's what makes the Feinstein proposal so interesting.

    She is calling for a partnership between governments, environmental foundations, and businesses to fund the effort. It's a kind of shared ownership of the massive problem.

    Remarkably, for once all the important players are on the same page.

    In what Silicon Valley Leadership CEO Carl Guardino describes as "enlightened self-interest," key leaders in the private sector have signed on.

    They have been joined by environmentalists who want to preserve and expand wetlands, which would benefit from the repaired levees. Players from national, state and local governments are invested as well. 

    The levee restoration initiative is in the earliest stage of work, with a new steering committee scheduled to have its first meeting within a few weeks.

    But unlike most questions that divide California to the point of dysfunctionalism, this effort holds some promise. That's a refreshing change for a state known best for not getting things done in a timely fashion. 

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