Improving resilience and risk planning for coastal communities

Erosion. Floods. The sea level rises. Tsunamis. All of these natural hazards threaten Washington’s Pacific Ocean coast, with potentially disastrous consequences for tribes and coastal communities.

Over the years, a number of efforts and investments have been made to address these coastal risks. However, Pacific Coast communities often lack the resources to undertake comprehensive planning efforts designed to help them prepare for the hazards they face and to plan how they can recover quickly after a major incident.


The erosion of banks, cliffs and beaches is a recurring problem along the coast.




Ecology and Washington Sea Grant recently led a partnership effort to complete Resilience Action Demonstration Project test different approaches to improve this type of planning. The two-year demonstration project included the launch of a multi-agency team comprised of staff from state agencies and university extension programs to address urgent resilience needs identified by coastal communities.

“Coastal communities and tribes are often geographically isolated and do not have as many resources for resilience planning as large cities – but they are even more vulnerable to natural hazards, especially in the face of climate change,” said Henry Bell, Coastal Ecology Planner. . “Local communities are so stretched that they can often only respond to hazard issues as they arise. A coordinated agency support team has the potential to help communities overcome these capacity gaps.

Building on 2017 assessment

The project responded directly to the coastal needs and priorities identified in the 2017 report Washington Coastal Resilience Assessment led by the William D. Ruckelshaus Center. With additional funding from the NOAA Office for Coastal ManagementEcology and Sea Grant were able to provide hands-on assistance to assess 175 potential projects and help secure $845,000 in federal funding for several resilience efforts in Washington.

Several ongoing projects

The Ecology-Sea Grant team worked with local, state, federal, and nonprofit partners to develop project proposals and secure funding for several soon-to-be-launched resilience projects, including:

Required: Coastal Resilience Initiative


During the winter months, extremely high tides regularly combine with storm surges to damage infrastructure and create safety hazards along Washington’s Pacific Coast.




The success of this pilot project demonstrates the long-term need for a coastal resilience initiative.

“A multi-agency Resilience Assistance Team would work in partnership with staff and community members on the Pacific Coast to build their social, economic and ecological resilience by providing strategic coordination and advancing projects that address both short-term priorities and long-term environmental changes. said Jackson Blalock, Sea Grant Community Engagement Specialist.

Although the pilot project focused on the ocean coast of Washington, it has national relevance: across the country, even where funding opportunities exist, many small communities lack the ability to secure funding for local projects that would improve their resilience to natural hazards.

This is an unprecedented time for federal investment in coastal resilience,” said Bobbak Talebi, Senior Coastal Ecology Planner. “We have a significant opportunity to help communities and tribes leverage federal support to complement the significant investments they are already making.”

Talebi added that the pilot project “helps demonstrate that by working collaboratively with these communities, we can strengthen partnerships and provide the additional capacity to expand the reach of projects, connect communities to funding programs and help move people around.” projects from the shelf to the shore”.

Recommendations from the final report

This month, Ecology and Sea Grant published their joint demonstration project recommendations in a final report. The report recommends:

  • Set up a permanent multi-organizational resilience team
  • Support local resilience planning.
  • Create local staff positions focused on building resilience to hazards
  • Increase local access to funds

The Ecology-Sea Grant team is currently working with the Washington Coastal Marine Advisory Council and other state agencies and academic outreach programs to advance the report’s recommendations.

“The resilience of Washington’s coastal communities – the very safety, security and survival of our residents – depends on how prepared we are for the growing range of coastal hazards we face,” said Randall Callendar, director of Washington Sea Grant. “The demonstration project is a significant step forward in establishing that readiness.”

About Us

Ecology works to improve Washington’s resilience to natural hazards in coastal and nearshore areas of the state through planning activities designed to avoid or minimize the impacts that hazards may have on communities and resources. natural. Ecology works with communities, local and tribal governments, and state and federal agencies to leverage the information and resources needed to take action.

Washington Sea Grant helps people and marine life thrive by providing research, technical expertise, and educational activities that support the responsible use and conservation of ocean and coastal ecosystems.

For more information contact:

Bobbak Talebi, Senior Coastal Ecology Planner, 360-819-3014 Henry Bell, Coastal Ecology Planner, 360-628-2750

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