A Plan to Protect Downtown Olympia
The City of Olympia (City), LOTT Clean Water Alliance (LOTT) and the Port of Olympia, under the guidance of the consulting firm AECOM Technical Services, completed the Olympia Sea Level Rise Response Plan in March 2019.
Downtown Olympia is the social, cultural, historic, and economic core of the city. While our downtown’s extensive shoreline helps make Olympia an extraordinary city, it also makes us vulnerable to flooding. In the coming decades, sea level rise could cause flooding downtown with property damage and loss of public services. At just 12-inches of sea level rise, a 100-year flood event could occur every other year.
Proactive action to adapt to sea level rise will be needed in the decades ahead to not only protect, but also enhance our downtown and our shoreline. The preservation of downtown Olympia will require the community’s support and attention. Along the way, opportunities will exist to enhance the natural resources attributes of the shoreline.
View the Sea Level Rise Plan
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Keeping Downtown Olympia Dry?
How is the SLR Response Plan related to other City Plans?
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.
How did the community participate in the planning process?
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 community meetings and other opportunities designed to obtain community feedback and input. To view material from the various public engagement opportunities, visit our SLR Community Involvement page.
Contact Susan Clark, Senior Planner, at 360.753.8321 or firstname.lastname@example.org