Sea Level Rise

Sea Level Rise Response Planning

Draft Sea Level Rise Response Plan Community Review Process

The City of Olympia (City), LOTT Clean Water Alliance (LOTT), the Port of Olympia (Port) and the consulting firm AECOM Technical Services have been working together to develop a comprehensive Sea Level Rise Response Plan for Downtown Olympia since May 2017.

The Draft Olympia Sea Level Rise Response Plan was first presented at the December 11, 2018 Sea Level Rise Community Meeting and made available for public comment from December 11, 2018 – January 25, 2019, and at a January 26, 2019 project sponsored King Tide Event. 

To address public (and staff) comments received during the public comment period, staff developed the February 6, 2019 Plan Revision Errata Sheet.

The City issued a notice of State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) Determination of Non-significance (DNS) for the Draft Olympia Sea Level Rise Response Plan (and Plan Revision Errata Sheet) on February 13, 2019.  The DNS comment and appeal period have closed.

The Draft Olympia Sea Level Rise Response Plan has now been finalized, thereby incorporating:

Other project documents completed during the planning process including the Planning Framework, Science Review and Vulnerability and Risk Assessment can be viewed on our Planning Process & Documents page.

Story Maps

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 included three community meetings designed to obtain feedback and input at specific points during the planning process.

  • Workshop 1: Vulnerability and Risk Assessment
  • Workshop 2: Draft Adaptation Strategies
  • Workshop 3: Draft Sea Level Rise Response Plan

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

To view materials from previous community meetings and presentations, visit our SLR Community Involvement page.


Contact Susan Clark, Senior Planner, at 360.753.8321 or


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