UW News

March 14, 2016

NOAA funds Washington Sea Grant to help communities protect their coasts

UW News

Washington Sea Grant was recently awarded nearly $900,000 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to help coastal communities protect against hazards, including tsunamis, winter storms and sea-level rise.


Whidbey’s Island County, seen here in a 2006 photo, is an initial partner on the project.Washington Dept. of Ecology

The three-year project will help prepare Washington’s roughly 3,100 miles of coastline and more than 45 coastal cities for current and future hazards. The award is one of six NOAA Regional Coastal Resilience Grants awarded this year.

Ian Miller, a coastal hazards specialist with Washington Sea Grant, will lead a team of state and local managers and scientists who will start this spring to fill in information gaps, conduct pilot projects, and other efforts that include:

  • Initially work with partners at Whidbey Island’s county government and the City of Tacoma to incorporate the latest research about sea-level rise and coastal hazards into their planning efforts. Island County contributed matching funding for the project.
  • Collaborate with the Department of Ecology to include the latest research on sea-level rise into shoreline master plans throughout the state.
  • Develop finer-scale forecasts for sea-level rise that can distinguish Washington communities where land is rising, like Neah Bay, from other places where land is sinking, like Seattle.
  • Present the probabilities of various future scenarios in ways that help managers weigh the options and plan for projections of 2 feet, 5 feet or more than 10 feet of global sea-level rise.
  • Collaborate with The Nature Conservancy, the state Fish & Wildlife Department and other groups working on shoreline restoration projects to look for win-win opportunities, such as removing buildings or other infrastructure from low-lying deltas, which could improve salmon habitat while also reducing vulnerability to rising seas.
  • Train resilience “ambassadors” who will know about the planning processes, funding opportunities and best strategies to address coastal hazards in their local communities.

Recent research from the UW and elsewhere has found new information about the potential for global sea-level rise from melting of the massive Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets.

“The results of those studies, a lot of which have come out in the last couple of years, are changing our understanding of the potential of future sea-level rise,” Miller said.

Partnering on the grant is the UW’s Climate Impacts Group, which published a 2015 report on the impacts of climate change in Puget Sound and co-authored a 2013 report on impacts in the Pacific Northwest, both of which highlighted coastal risks. Other partners include Western Washington University and the U.S. Geological Survey.

“By working together to build on and leverage existing Washington planning and management resources, project partners hope to make real progress in addressing local vulnerability to coastal hazards and changing climate,” said Penny Dalton, director of Washington Sea Grant.

The project is one of 12 awarded over two years from 132 applicants for the grants.


For more information, contact Miller at immiller@uw.edu or 360-417-6460.

See also a Washington Sea Grant press release.