SLR Planning Process

SLR Planning process graphic

The Planning Process

The Sea Level Rise Response planning process will use the following five step process. Stakeholder engagement and community input is ongoing and critical to each step. Following Plan completion, plan implementation and monitoring will occur.

  1. Review Science Complete
  2. Inventory Assets and Operations Complete
  3. Assess Vulnerability Complete
  4. Assess Risk Complete
  5. Draft Adaptation Strategies In Progress

Planning Framework

The Planning Framework describes how the sea level rise planning process will occur and under what guiding principles and assumptions. At the completion of the planning process, the document will be reworked to serve as the introduction to the Sea Level Rise Response Plan and the record of the planning process. You can download the Planning Framework at the bottom of this page.

During the June 27, 2017 Community Meeting, attendees were asked to provide input on “project success” and “project outcomes”.  This input, along with sea level rise policy direction from the City’s Comprehensive Plan and Downtown Strategy, was considered during the drafting of the Planning Framework.

Comments on the Planning Framework can be sent to

Science Review

The Science Review presents a review of climate science data and sea level rise for Olympia. It establishes the scientific basis for evaluating sea level rise impacts. This review of the science is the first step in the sea level rise planning process and provides a basis for conducting the vulnerability and risk assessment and subsequent adaptation strategies. You can download the Science Review at the bottom of this page.

The Science Review discusses the most critical climate stressors for Olympia: sea level rise, coastal flooding, and precipitation. If no adaptation strategies are implemented, these climate stressors are expected to significantly impact Olympia’s Downtown, Port, and LOTT facilities.

The Science Review identifies the National Research Council (NRC) report Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon and Washington: Past, Present and Future (2012) as the current best available sea level rise science for the region.  A key finding of the Science Review is the identified need to apply local geological adjustments to the NRC sea level rise projections. Estimating subsidence in combination with sea level rise will make the projections locally relevant for Olympia. Observations of vertical land motion in Olympia indicate that Olympia may be experiencing subsidence, or sinking, at rates as high as 3 millimeters per year (mm/yr). This subsidence results from regional tectonics and artificial fill compacting. Subsidence may increase the effects of sea level rise in Olympia. Subsidence could contribute an additional 5 inches of sea level rise by 2030, 8 inches by 2050 and 12 inches by 2100.

Vulnerability & Risk Assessment

The Vulnerability and Risk Assessment evaluates flooding and SLR impacts to key assets and operations. It presents an overview of the adopted SLR scenarios used in the assessment, summarizes the data collection process and asset categories considered in the assessment, presents the vulnerability and risk assessment methodology and findings, and summarizes next steps. You can download the Vulnerability and Risk Assessment at the bottom of this page.

The Vulnerability and Risk Assessment evaluates SLR impacts at 0, 6, 12, 18 and 24-inches of SLR. It also includes a high level evaluation of a high-range end-of-century SLR scenario of 68-inches.  The assessment considers impacts by annual high tides (referred to as “king tides”) and an extreme high tide event with storm surge equivalent to a 100-year water level in Budd Inlet.

A vulnerability assessment is the process of identifying, quantifying and prioritizing (or ranking) the vulnerabilities in a system. A risk assessment is the determination of quantitative or qualitative estimate of risk related to a well-defined situation and a recognized threat. Vulnerability refers to the inability (of a system or unit) to withstand the effects of a hostile environment. A risk is the potential for loss damage or destruction of an asset as a result of a threat exploiting a vulnerability. Risk is the intersection of assets, threats, and vulnerabilities.

Draft Adaptation Strategies

Now that Steps 1 through 4 in the sea level rise planning process are completed, the focus of the planning effort has turned to development of draft adaptation strategies. The draft adaptation strategies will be presented at a community workshop and feedback solicited during fall 2018. You can download Example Adaptation Strategies at the bottom of this page.

There are three adaptation strategy types under consideration to protect City, LOTT and Port assets from flooding and SLR impacts: infrastructure, governance, and informational.

Infrastructure strategies will address physical vulnerabilities and could include a recommendation such as upgrade outfall pump station capacity to pump against higher tides.

Governance strategies will address policy, plans or overarching guidance documents and could include a recommendation such as develop a flood response plan to assist vulnerable populations during flood events.

Informational strategies will address initiatives and knowledge gaps and could include a recommendation such as survey finish floor elevations for downtown structures within the SLR vulnerability zone to better understand their sensitivity to flooding.

Public Meeting Materials

As a companion to the community workshop, a joint meeting of the City of Olympia Council, LOTT Clean Water Alliance Board of Directors and the Port of Olympia Commission was held on January 31, 2018. This was an opportunity for discussion among elected officials and leaderships staff.

Approximately 130 community members attended the January 18, 2018 Open House and Community Workshop. Officials from the City and the consulting firm AECOM Technical Services, Inc. (AECOM) presented information about the sea level rise planning process and recently completed vulnerability and risk assessment work. Attendees provided input during a public comment and question period and through participation in four workshop activities.

The City, LOTT and the Port hosted a Community Meeting on June 27, 2017 to present the Sea Level Rise Response planning process. Staff answered questions about the current understanding of sea level rise and past work efforts and gave a presentation focused on the current planning process, including project approach, schedule, community engagement opportunities and expected outcomes.


Contact Susan Clark, Senior Planner, at 360.753.8321 or


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