The highest tides of the year offer a glimpse into a future of rising sea levels along Washington’s coast.
Our priorities for the 2019 Legislature touch upon all our work, and all our lives, whether we live in the Palouse, along the coast, or in between. They include tackling climate change, protecting the natural and cultural wealth that makes Washington special, and improving equity in environmental policymaking so that all of us can benefit from cleaner, healthier air and water.
Written by Jenny Baker, Senior Restoration Manager
With Contributions by Julie Morse Senior Ecologist; Jodie Toft, Senior Marine Ecologist
The 12th offering of Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference is just around the corner and a cadre of us from TNC are ready to head north and dive in. Next week, over 1,000 indigenous knowledge-holders, scientists, policy-makers, students and other stakeholders from the US and Canada will collect in Vancouver, B.C. for 3 knowledge-packed days. The conference is a wonderful opportunity for interdisciplinary and transboundary collaboration and networking for those of us dedicated to the protection and recovery of the Salish Sea region.
The team is excited to share our work in the Salish Sea through three presentations and a poster. In the Toward Coordinated Resilience Planning Where People and Ecosystems are Being Squeezed by Climate Change session, a range of speakers will explore the complexity of addressing climate change in systems where past and current land use influence how climate change will affect people and nature, and some of the considerations that are needed as we plan for the future. We have two talks in this session. We will talk about our work to incorporate climate change considerations into floodplains project funding and marine shoreline planning, and our work to identify projects that have benefits for flooding, farms and fish in the Skagit river delta.
In the Local Stories and Results session, we will describe monitoring results from TNC’s Port Susan Bay project in an Ignite presentation, sure to be an informative and engaging crowd-pleaser. And we will present a poster titled New Tools for a United Front to highlightseveral new ideas and projects that TNC is working on. These include: TNC’s and the University of Washington’s “Outside Our Doors” publication, which synthesizes 40 years of research on benefits of nature in cities; tools for exploring flood risk and coastal resilience; a spatial assessment that answers the question how much agricultural best management practice implementation is needed and where is the best place to put it to get the strongest environmental outcomes; and the effects of polluted stormwater on coho salmon and promising solutions for treatment.
In addition to sharing our work and hearing from others, we look forward to the inaugural Billy Frank Jr. plenary, the keynote by Dr. Roberta Bondar, Canada’s first female astronaut and the world’s first neurologist in space, the art show, a reception at the Vancouver Aquarium and the First Nations/Tribal Dinner.
For me, this will be my third time attending this conference. Every year I find it recharges and inspires me. All day for three days, there’s non-stop presentations, poster sessions and great conversations over coffee with my colleagues, many that I’ve known for years but don’t see on a daily basis. Our work is often messy, and so complicated that I often get lost in the details… but this conference always reminds me of the big picture and how lucky I am to live and work in the beautiful Salish Sea.
Look for tweets from the team next week as we share highlights from the meeting!
Written by Kris Johnson, Senior Scientist, The Nature Conservancy
Flooding is increasingly becoming a fact of life along the Snohomish River. In early December the severe flooding in the cities of Snohomish and Monroe inundated homes and farms and closed roads and a city park. For residents in the area it was déjà vu all over again, as just weeks before some of the same areas experienced a separate major flooding event. Clearly, managing flood risk along the Snohomish, and throughout western Washington, is challenging yet essential to the lives and livelihoods of millions of people.
And climate change is compounding this problem: warmer temperatures are leading to sea level rise and higher tides, and more winter precipitation is falling as rain rather than snow, causing flashier flows in the rivers. Understanding how flood risk is changing and incorporating best-available information into planning and decision-making is crucial for communities in Puget Sound.
With this in mind the Nature Conservancy led a recent pilot project to both evaluate how climate change might impact flooding and then provide this information to local decision-makers. In partnership with the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group and West Engineering we assessed how varying scenarios of climate change could alter flooding in the Lower Snohomish River and cause potentially greater impact to farms and buildings and infrastructure.
This analysis suggested that in just a few decades what is currently considered a “100-year” flood could be much more severe and could inundate part of I-5 near Everett and cause nearly 20% more costly property losses (see image).
To make this information useful and readily available we created new Floodplains by Design ‘app’ on the Coastal Resilience decision support tool so that local partners with the Sustainable Lands Strategy in Snohomish County could integrate maps and images of potential flooding into their project planning and decision-making process.
Managing increasing flood risk while sustaining high-value agriculture and also restoring salmon populations and protecting the environment will be a major challenge in Puget Sound in the 21st century. Rigorous science and sophisticated tools, like those developed by The Nature Conservancy for the Lower Snohomish River, can provide local communities with the best-available information that can help them plan accordingly.