By Nicole Faghin, Washington Sea Grant
When Island County staff recently evaluated where to spend public dollars for coastal restoration projects, they realized they needed more information on how each of the potential sites might be affected by future coastal flooding. City of Tacoma staff looked at monitoring reports for an existing habitat restoration site and similarly wondered, will those restored salt marshes exist in 50 years in the face of increased storms and inundation from sea level rise? And scaling up to the state level, how should sea level rise be incorporated into the Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program (ESRP) at Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife when evaluating state funding for restoration projects?
Finding answers to these questions is one focus of the multi-dimensional Washington Coastal Resilience Project (WCRP) funded by NOAA and managed by Washington Sea Grant (WSG) and the Washington Department of Ecology. Coordinated by WSG, this effort to consider future conditions in Washington's restoration programs is being conducted in collaboration with the Climate Impacts Group (CIG) with funding from the National Estuary Program. The project goal is to develop guidance for incorporating coastal hazards projections in the siting, design, and maintenance of near-shore habitat restoration projects.
What form this guidance will take is currently being explored through combined efforts of WSG, CIG, ESRP, Island County and the City of Tacoma along with other experts in the field of shoreline restoration and sea level rise. As a first step in the effort, a team of restoration managers and scientists met in March and asked three questions during a Restoration Workshop:
Acknowledging there may be different answers for restoration sites on types of shorelines, the participants of our Restoration Workshop approached these questions from three different perspectives depending upon whether a proposed restoration site would be located on a beach, an estuary, or an embayment.
Out of this first workshop came the framework for further discussions. By dividing the issues into topics, four major categories emerged with questions about restoration projects based on biophysical, planning, infrastructure and relationship to adjacent properties.
Over the next few months, the team will conduct research on examples of other guidelines from across the US and identify ways to develop resources for both restoration managers and funders alike who want to consider future sea levels in their decision making. While the scientific literature contains ample information about projected impacts of sea level rise on restoration projects, there are limited resources identifying key criteria to guide the siting, design and maintenance of marine restoration sites. Those options for Washington State will be expanded in the next few years as a result of this multi-partner effort.
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