By Tina Whitman, Science Director, Friends of the San Juans
In San Juan County Washington, private shoreline property owners are critical partners in efforts to protect nearshore habitat while addressing the impacts of sea level rise. This is because over 90% of San Juan County’s 400 shoreline miles are privately owned. To help develop these partnerships, Friends of the San Juans has completed extensive sea level rise research at the parcel level, created communication tools, and conducted extensive outreach to all San Juan County waterfront landowners.
With so many miles of marine shoreline, the economy and ecology of the San Juan Islands is vulnerable to increased coastal flood and erosion hazards associated with climate change and sea level rise. In 2014, Friends worked with Coastal Geologic Services and a large technical team to complete a countywide vulnerability analysis, looking at the impacts of erosion and inundation, completed an assessment of existing regulatory frameworks to address sea level rise impacts, conducted new field research on the tidal extent of incubating forage fish eggs and their vulnerability to sea level rise, and developed management recommendations linked to these new research results. Following this work, extensive outreach was conducted with local land managers, including county departments such as public works, planning and parks, as well as meetings with public and private conservation organizations. A pilot community workshop was also held on Shaw Island for the more general public, with a focus on shoreline landowners. Friends of the San Juans also created graphics to help convey sea level rise adaptation options and mailed a shoreline stewardship guide with four pages focused on sea level rise.
In June 2017, Friends of the San Juans hosted additional community workshops on the topic of sea level rise on multiple islands in San Juan County. Ian Miller of WA Sea Grant provided an overview of the science and regional scale projections, Andrea MacLennan with Coastal Geologic Services presented results of a county scale sea level rise vulnerability model, and Tina Whitman of Friends of the San Juans, highlighted the recreational, economic, and ecological values of island shorelines as well as examples of local habitat friendly or multi-benefit adaptation projects that are planned or have been implemented such as the landward relocation of vulnerable roads and houses.
Nearly 200 people attended the workshops. As part of the workshops, live-results interactive polling was conducted; 174 attendees participated in the surveys. Survey questions focused on shoreline values, as well as perceived risk of rising seas and preferences for a variety of adaptation strategies and implementation mechanisms. Results have been compiled for each workshop (island) and also compiled countywide (all 4 islands) and the full results are available on our website. See www.sanjuans.org/sealevelrise/ for more information on sea level rise resources for San Juan County.
Almost all survey respondents were San Juan County property owners and 61% of these owned waterfront property. Overwhelmingly, the respondents felt that sea level rise will impact their community in the San Juans (92%). Results indicate there is strong support for both the protection of habitat for fish and wildlife and a significant preference for long term solutions that use relocation or green infrastructure as opposed to hard engineering.
Examples of the survey results:
Friends of the San Juans will continue to work to advance sea level rise adaptation by sharing workshop results with local and regional managers, conducting site visits with interested landowners, and continuing to identify and advance habitat friendly sea level rise adaptation projects with public and private waterfront property owners.
For more information please visit our website at: www.sanjuans.org/sealevelrise for referenced reports, workshop presentations, survey results, and a link to a short video about an adaptation project that was implemented on Orcas Island in 2015 where the property owners restored their waterfront with sea level rise impacts in mind (“Planning for the Future: Benefits of Beach Restoration”). If you have any questions please contact contact Tina Whitman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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