By Bobbak Talebi, Coastal Planner, Washington State Department of Ecology
At the Department of Ecology, we have been working in partnership (with many CHRN members) to support community-led initiatives that build resilience to the physical, social, and economic challenges that are a growing part of the Washington coastal reality. Recent efforts such as the Grays Harbor Resilience Coalition and the Willapa Erosion Control Alliance Now (WECAN) were formed to catalyze meaningful action through alliances of local representatives, state and federal agencies, and tribal partners. Community-centered approaches like these increase collective capacity to address key information needs and coordinate investment for both short- and long-term community resilience to natural hazards.
However, given the coast-wide scope of these issues, there has been shared interest among multiple coastal communities to work together on a more durable approach to hazards resilience. In partnership with the office of U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer and Washington Sea Grant, we have contracted the William D. Ruckelshaus Center to explore opportunities for long-term resilience in coastal Washington.
The Ruckelshaus Center’s Washington State Coast Resilience Assessment conducted 104 interviews with coastal tribes, coastal residents, elected officials, federal, tribal, state, county, and city government agency staff, researchers, scientists, engineers, NGOs, and other interested parties. This assessment examines the dynamics, interests, challenges, and opportunities related to coastal resilience in Washington State and provides a mechanism for the experiences and viewpoints of the participants to inform the next generation of strategies for enhancing coast-wide resilience. Participants’ definitions of “resilience” show that life safety, survival, and long-term economic stability are important to coastal communities, in addition to protection of infrastructure and property. But how can coastal resilience strategies meet these multiple objectives?
To answer this questions, the assessment takes a strategic approach— it collects the various efforts and creative solutions already occurring along the coast and recommends concrete “Key Leveraging Actions” that are intended to meet multiple objectives and create high impact for communities. Of particular interest to the Department of Ecology’s Shorelands and Environmental Assistance program is the recommendation that state agencies and other institutions work as “integrators” of information, best practices, and planning principles. The role of state-level integrators would not simply be to provide top-down technical assistance to communities who ask for it, but to build on the efforts that communities are already making and weave them together in an effective way. After reading the assessment, I was surprised by what is already happening at local level and interested in the idea of state agencies bringing resources primarily to support that local work and facilitate connections between communities. And according to the assessment, communities do see this “integrator” role as something that’s needed and worth investing in.
But, as we’ve experienced in our resilience work, addressing the impacts associated with natural hazards is complex and wide-ranging, requiring action on multiple scales. This assessment helps coastal Washington operationalize its broad concepts of resilience, recommending on-the-ground steps that can be taken to enhance resilience right now. Using the report as a guide, we will continue to pursue resilience strategies with coastal communities and explore state investment to support identified opportunities.
For more information please download the Washington Coast Resilience Assessment Final Report and Executive Summary, or visit the Ruckelshaus projects page, here.
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