A highlight from Got Mud? For Coastal Cities, Humble Dirt Has Become A Hot Commodity

Automatic TRANSCRIPT

As the climate gets warmer dirt is becoming a hot commodity. Coastal cities use it to protect themselves from rising seas by building levees and restoring marshes but supplies getting tight as npr's lauren. Summer reports. there's a name for patent appellate job a name. He's not really a fan of. He's considered a dirt broker. I hate that name. I'll be honest with you. Dirt negative connotation. You gotta go wash up right because what. My pelly handles is in high demand. He works for the construction materials company. Granite rock and he gets a lot of phone calls about dirt. Demand is widely beyond. What the supplies. We're walking on top of one of the deals that mccully brokered it's an earthen levee on the shores of san francisco bay one that helps protect hundreds of thousands of people over the years waves and weather have worn it down. It's very much lower than it should be right now. It needs more dirt and a lot of it. One million cubic yards for the levies in this area. That's one hundred thousand dump trucks. Some pally is a matchmaker. He finds people who need to get rid of dirt like a construction project. That's digging an underground parking garage. And he finds a way to get that dirt to the shoreline with sea level rise. The need for that is only going up. How do we get people to see that. We're on the precipice of a huge crisis. Letitia rainier is a senior scientist at the san francisco estuary institute and ecological science group were standing next to a large. That's a magnet for wildlife. Right now we're looking at waterbirds from basically all over the western hemisphere. That are this muddy stretch of low lying. Plants is also a barrier against the water. These marshes are knocking down the waves. They're absorbing the water and they're really helping create flood risk management along the shore which is critical for many billions of dollars of infrastructure as well as kids and other communities along the shoreline gra near says about ninety percent of the bays marshes have been filled in a lot needs to be restored to protect the shoreline from rising seas which could go up between three and six feet by the end of the century but even after they get restored the marshes will still need mud to keep up with sea level. Rise the muddy water that comes in with every tide helps build it up. If the wetlands don't have that they basically drown they get lower and lower relative to how high the water is gra near her colleagues. Found that san francisco bay will likely need more than five hundred million metric tons of sediment by the end of the century to deal with climate. Change the natural supply will fall short of that only one third to one half of what's needed but there is a potential source of mud just nearby every year thousands of ships come into san francisco bay following navigation channels. The federal army corps of engineers is responsible for dredging them collecting millions of cubic yards of mud every year. Tessa beach. Who works at the core. San francisco district says they do get requests. Use that money for restoration projects. I don't disagree. I think you know drudge. Materials should be viewed as a really valuable commodity in that regard but she says federal rules require them to pick the cheapest option to get rid of it which usually means just it often out in the pacific ocean. It is frustrating that this has been decades of trying to solve this problem. Amy hudson us with the california coastal conservancy estate agency that works on restoration. She says the only way for states to get this dredged mud to pay the extra cost of moving it dumping. It may be cheaper but that ignores the longer term benefits of preventing flooding. She says so. We're just going to be seeing erosion of our shorelines and mudflats and marshes unless we start doing things differently with settlement. That could be changing soon last year. Congress passed a law that told the army corps of engineers to consider the environmental benefits of using mud including to prepare for climate change. The agency says it plans to release new rules on

Coming up next