Sea Level Rise

Upcoming Events 

Open House and Community Meeting:  Learn about the Draft Sea Level Rise Response Plan and next steps on Tuesday, December 11, 6-8 p.m. at LOTT Clean Water Alliance, 500 Adams St NE. View meeting agenda

King Tides: View Olympia's predicted king tides schedule for December 2018 and January 2019.

Sea Level Rise Response Planning

A Joint Effort to Protect Downtown

The City of Olympia is working with LOTT Clean Water Alliance, the Port of Olympia and the consulting firm AECOM Technical Services Inc. to develop a comprehensive Sea level Rise Response Plan for Downtown Olympia.

The Sea Level Rise Plan will address the challenges facing our community and how to protect and preserve downtown amenities, assets, and quality of life for Olympia’s residents and businesses. The Plan will analyze options for protecting Downtown. It will include recommendations, implementation schedules, decision-making thresholds and funding needs.

This planning effort is a priority action from the City’s Downtown Strategy process and builds on steps that have already been taken to prepare for sea level rise.

There is strong community support for protecting Downtown, investing in Downtown and ensuring that it is safe and welcoming. These community values were established through multiple public processes and serve as the basis for the City’s Comprehensive Plan.

Project documents completed since it began in 2017 include the Planning Framework, Science Review and Vulnerability and Risk Assessment. View them all on our Planning Process & Documents page.

Frequently Asked Questions


In addition to planning for the future through participation in the joint sea level rise planning effort, Olympia's Storm and Surface Water Utility is taking action today to minimize flooding in Downtown Olympia. View the Taking Steps to Keep Downtown Olympia Dry document for more information.

During current-day high tides, marine water can flow backward up through the stormwater system causing flooding in low-lying Downtown streets and parking lots. Such nuisance flooding is now limited to just a few times a year. With rising seas, the frequency of nuisance flooding is expected to increase.

The mission of Olympia's Storm and Surface Water Utility is to reduce flooding, improve water quality, and protect and enhance aquatic habitat. 

There are many Sea Level Rise and flooding related challenges facing the downtown Olympia area. Portions of the downtown are built on fill, shoreline areas are mapped within FEMA’s 100-year coastal floodplain, and high tides can back up into the stormwater system and cause surface street flooding. Downtown flooding issues – both from high tides and intense precipitation – will worsen in the future as a result of Sea Level Rise.

This planning effort is a priority action from the City’s Downtown Strategy process and builds on steps that have already been taken to prepare for sea level rise. There is strong community support for protecting Downtown, investing in Downtown and ensuring that it is safe and welcoming. These community values were established through multiple public processes and serve as the basis for the City’s Comprehensive Plan.

Abandoning Downtown is not consistent with existing goals, policies and growth plans adopted for Downtown or with public values embodied in the Olympia Comprehensive Plan, Downtown Strategy and Shoreline Master Program. However, through the sea level rise planning process, the potential implications of a large-scale retreat from Downtown will be better understood.

Comprehensive Plan Goals & Policies

  • The City uses best available information to implement a Sea Level Rise management plan that will protect Olympia’s downtown. (Goal U 11)
  • Evaluate different scenarios for sea level rise, including varying magnitudes and time horizons, and develop a progression of adaptation and response actions for each scenario. (PU 11.1)
  • Develop plans, cost estimates and financing options for addressing sea level rise that include regulatory, engineering and environmentally sensitive solutions. (PU 11.2)
  • Maintain public control of downtown shorelines that may eventually be needed to help manage flood water. (PU 11.3)
  • Incorporate sea level rise planning into the design of public and private infrastructure where needed. (PU 11.4)
  • Use the best available science and the experiences of other communities in formulating plans for sea level rise. (PU 11.5)
  • Partner with government entities and other key stakeholders, such as, the federal government, State of Washington, LOTT Clean Water Alliance, Port of Olympia, Squaxin Island Tribe, downtown property owners, businesses and residents, environmental groups, and other interested parties. (PU 11.6)
  • Engage the community in a discussion of various sea level rise scenarios, how the City will respond to lessen the impact, and what the costs would be. (PU 11.7)
  • Require development to incorporate measures, such as higher finished floor elevations, that will reduce risks and avoid future costs associated with rising sea levels; and to encourage acknowledgment of such risks by state and federal agencies. (PU 11.8)

Downtown Strategy Action

  • Form a Sea Level Response Plan that identifies needs for protecting Downtown, risks, uncertainties, private and public costs, funding, and a response that can be implemented incrementally and modified as new information emerges.

Development of the Sea Level Rise Response Plan icludes three community meetings designed to obtain feedback and input at specific points during the planning process.

  • Workshop 1: Vulnerability and Risk Assessment - December 11, 2018.
  • Workshop 2: Draft Adaptation Strategies - September 19, 2018
  • Workshop 3: Draft Sea Level Rise Response Plan - TBD

In addition to the project's scheduled community workshops, the Project Partners intend to pursue additional community engagement opportunities. If your organization is interested in a Sea Level Rise presentation, please send a request to searise@ci.olympia.wa.us.

Questions?

Contact Susan Clark, Senior Planner, at 360.753.8321 or searise@ci.olympia.wa.us

 

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