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Downtown Renewal Condition #3

City planners should institute design requirements that accommodate at least a 40-year high SLR estimate for Puget Sound waterfront projects and adjacent property improvements.

Previously, I characterized the downtown as inconsistently zoned, poorly profiled for investment and renewal, and under-performing in terms of its current zoning.  Next, I wrote about the age, quality and safety of the downtown core.   There is another issue at hand for Gig Harbor’s downtown (and for all waterfront Puget Sound communities), Condition Three, SLR.

That’s right, sea level rise.  Did you know that in light of sea level rise projections the Netherlands is devoting 4% of its national GDP to increase its levee protection.  

With 41,526 sq. kilometers, the Netherlands supports a population of just under 16.5 million people, making it one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Rising sea levels could dismantle the Dutch way of life. The people, economy, and property could be decimated, costing the Dutch their livelihood and even their lives.  So, the Dutch are well-educated, conservative, and committed to practical action with respect to SLR.  The Dutch are raising their levees about 24".

The best action for lowering sea level rise would be a drastic cut in greenhouse gas emissions. Even under the best case scenario, however, the sea level will rise at least 0.4 meters, about 15", at the turn of the century.

In the past, global warming has caused the Earth’s polar regions to be warm for long periods of time. Melting glaciers and polar ice caps 125,000 years ago increased sea levels by 4 to 6 meters.  Current earth CO2 level are comparable to those epochs due to man-made causes; it would be best to change the CO2 scenario ASAP.

Recently, the Washington State Department of Ecology stated that Puget Sound sea level rise might reach 22” of sea level rise by 2050, and that doesn’t include the SLR increase due to melting of the Greenland ice sheet, the increase in atmospheric methane due to melting of permafrost, or the possibility of elevation reduction in the Puget Sound Basin due to rapid tectonic shift.  The SLR estimate does not address the yearly reality of storm surge and winter high tides.

Given climatic change, how long do you think it will be before the Skansie House basement is full of saltwater?  How long will it be before the lower levels of the Harbor History Museum and its archive room will be wet with salt?  How long will it be before Harborview Drive, near Java and Clay and the Maritime Inn, looks like waterfront on some days? If you're in high school, then you'll see it!

City planners should institute design requirements that accommodate at least a 40-year high Puget Sound SLR estimate for waterfront projects and adjacent property improvements.  Otherwise, public and private construction projects won’t have time to realize a depreciated investment.  Even a 40-year high SLR standard may not be enough.  To quote a recent WSDOE publication, "If sea level rises 2 feet, a flood event expected to occur once in 100 years would turn into an annual event."

For more information, read this UW study:  http://www.cses.washington.edu/db/pdf/moteetalslr579.pdf

The City of Seattle is re-building its seawall along Elliot Bay to a 100-year estimate in this study, an increase of 50".  It just goes to show, there are prudent people everywhere.  

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Harborite January 29, 2013 at 10:25 PM
I say don't waste time worrying about rising water. It is what it is and there is nothing man can do about mother nature doing her thing. The earth is never static...just look at the movement of the earth as it shakes, rattles and shoves it'self silly. It warms and cools to keep a balance. It's time to stop screaming the sky is falling and get on with livin :o)
Mark Hoppen January 29, 2013 at 10:36 PM
Harborite (nameless), My point exactly. Sometimes we have to react to conditions as we find them. I take it that you advocate never planning ahead and just waiting until the water regularly comes over the bulkhead. I say figure out what is likely to happen, and then deal with it in an orderly manner that saves private dollars, including tax dollars.
Harborite January 30, 2013 at 12:27 AM
With the cooling that has been going on for the past ten years, it's very possible we wont have to think about rising tides. I think this global warming scam is all about carbon credits...hello Al Gore :o)
employee January 30, 2013 at 01:12 AM
Mark, you make great points. There are plans such as the Donkey creek daylighting project and the new sewer station at Jursich park that could be affected just 10 years after construction. There are always going to be people that deny the facts(warming), but it always should be a factor in the planning of our infrastructure. Hat tip to you
Douglas Smith January 31, 2013 at 04:32 AM
I am grateful for Mark's articles (thanks Mark!). As an in-town resident, I find it really helpful to read a planner's perspective on these issues. I might not live long enough to see the waters rise this much -- and they might -- but I value being part of a community that considers the possibilities and sets up prudent guidelines. No need to take Draconian measures -- but moderate precautions make sense.
Harborite January 31, 2013 at 01:40 PM
Muh please..if the tide rises and floods the basement of the old Skansie home, there is nothing anyone can do or could have done to prevent it and I'm thinkin the house really isn't worth saving anywho. My dream is that it does rise and that it swamps that god awful Russel Building :o) As for spending money to remove the road and build a bridge over Donkey Creek, that is one of the nuttiest ideas the city has come up with yet. If the city has so much spare money, why not return it to the citizens so they can afford the high water/sewer rates. I just read that there is more "green" showing from space, so there ya go...all that nasty CO2 is going to be changed into the air we breath and all is going to work out. Again, I get so tired of the continual "sky is falling" nonsense.
Mark Hoppen January 31, 2013 at 03:24 PM
The City (any city for that matter) runs its utilities as separate funds (think business entities), and cannot spend general tax revenue on sewer, water or storm water funds. Why? In part, the ratepayers are a different and smaller set of people than the set of general taxpayers.
Thomas Hansen January 31, 2013 at 06:12 PM
I am sorry Mark, it one thing to be prudent and be prepared for certain emergencies, but to use AGW (anthropogenic global warming) caused by humans as an argument for downtown renewal is not only a stretch, but is really well beyond the parameters of considering such a dubious position as good business practices. It may be prudent for the Netherlands, but that is a poor example since we have nothing in common with them other than a water line and then the shoreline only goes up hill from there. I agree the haphazard zoning is the problem for downtown redevelopment, however, as much as I would like to see a boardwalk with restaurants and shops and arcades and such that would attract tourism like a Seaside, etc., I just don't envision that downtown Gig Harbor will ever be more than a sleepy little marine harbor as it always has been.
Mark Hoppen January 31, 2013 at 06:45 PM
Thomas, a sleepy village with dry waterfront public amenities, productively utilized downtown space, thoughtful downtown preservation, and modern fire suppression. And maybe, a broader array of small business services.
Harborite January 31, 2013 at 09:04 PM
Something tells me, the Donkey Creek project is probably being financed by grants etc...money from taxpayers, one way or another, and it seem like such a waste to have removed the original bridge years ago, filling over culverts, and now to remove the fill and build another bridge. If there had been a flood damage and it was necessary to repair the road, that would be one thing, but to tear it out...nuts I tell ya :o) A traffic circle with what is there would no doubt work well and save folks a bunch of money.
Mark Hoppen February 01, 2013 at 04:46 PM
Doug, precisely.
Mark Hoppen February 01, 2013 at 07:09 PM
Harborite, Call it a "modern roundabout". Traffic circles are in neighborhoods to slow down traffic. Roundabouts are in Europe mostly, elongated and designed to be traversed at higher speeds. Modern roundabouts are designed to limit speeds to just under 25 mph, or you feel uncomfortable driving around them. And yup, you're right. The current intersection is irregular, handles less than 50% of the flow a properly designed roundabout would handle, and is signicantly more dangerous to pedestrians and drivers than a roundabout. In the long run, the city will have to put one right there, or re-channel and put one on Austin Street and close North Harborview, using what remains for parking, bikes and pedestrians. Given future traffic flows, the city won't really have any choice. PS The new bridge is designed for this eventuality, so the new construction isn't really just all about salmon. That's just how city got the federal grants. Smart city.
Harborite February 01, 2013 at 10:51 PM
And who pays for those grants....we do....call them what you want, but it's the taxpayers paying for all the unnecessary projects. Imagine the freedom we'd all have if we weren't taxed to death. Imagine if once our homes were paid off, we didn't have to worry about losing them if we weren't able to scrape up the property tax. We could actually call it our own. A home up to a certain value should be free of property taxes. Think of the precious leisure time we would all have if there were less taxes, fees, you name it. I know we have to have a way to support the things we as a society need, but it's really out of control thanks to incredibly poor leadership.
JC May 30, 2013 at 06:19 PM
Harborite, you are exactly correct. We need more truly forward thinkers like yourself, in order to perserve the quality of life in GH through lower property taxes and utility rates, (to name a couple areas we can look at) and less "progressive" and (ironically) more or less backward thinkers like Mark. "Progressive"= Taxes way too high and wasting taxpayer money through extremely top heavy government. If "Progressives" have their way for a long enough period, in the end, everyone regresses and everyone loses...... Solution: Conserve the quality of life in GH by progressing toward more money staying in the hands of the taxpayer, so everyone can much more enjoy the many ammenities of the area, surrounded by all the beauty!
Mark Hoppen May 30, 2013 at 07:54 PM
Anti-tax guys, I'm a fiscal conservative, but if the process of dividing up our federal tax dollars provides an opportunity for us to compete and improve our local quality of life, then I'd choose to compete, rather than let someone in New York or Florida spend my tax dollars. As for the North Harborview Bridge, a roundabout off Austin St. would work, and not using the current route under construction would create public parking, improve local driveway access, and improve property values. By the way, anti-tax guys, think about this: our property taxes provide less than 20% of the services we residents use from the city. Residents, based on property tax alone, are heavily subsidized, unless they make a major effort to buy local. Political philosophy is just a crutch to not explore facts and make thoughtful decisions, and it's political philosophy, both progressive and conservative that is damaging this country, not taxes.
JC June 01, 2013 at 04:31 PM
Mark, A true fiscal conservative would understand, for example, that the federal government debt of almost $17 trillion is unsustainable. I will present my point primarily from the Federal level, as opposed to the local level, as the same principals apply to both, and most folks I would venture to guess, myself included, are much more familiar with the pressing National Debt issue. You say you are for reducing the deficit, and I'm sure you agree that the debt is unsustainable, however, at the same time, you offer no realistic and significant cuts, locally or at the Federal level, to attain a much smarter/smaller government. It is all about the transfer of wealth. Political philosophy aside, any economist with some business acumen and an open mind, and therefore an objective viewpoint, will derive from economic data, that government in general, and especially at the federal level, tend to be extremely wastful and ineffcient, along with, as in our particular case today, an unusally high amount of corruption spread across both parties, as evidenced, for one example, in the two largest stock market crashes in US history, on Sept. 17, 2001 and Sept. 29, 2008........and we still have by no means recovered, with the economy "growing" at an enemic rate, at best. Solution: Alot less money, ideally, or at very least, absolutely no spending beyond what annual federal tax revenues bring in, and alot more common sense, courage, business acumen, and moral integrity in the hands of this type of government, would obviously result in cutting the waste and the unecessary regulations that kill private sector job creation. Those savings will end up where?.......You got it. In the hands of We The People, you and me, the ever job creative, innovative and truly forward thinking American people. You seem to be, despite claiming to be a fiscal conservative, still following the disasterous Federal fiscal model and applying such to our local government.....The Gig Harbor community and I are open to your ideas of how to attain more private sector economic autonomy, hence smarter/smaller government, at both the Federal and local levels, which, if attained, bodes well for all people. Thanks Mark!
Mark Hoppen June 02, 2013 at 01:46 AM
What you assert makes sense on a federal level. I work on the local level where budgets balance yearly, revenues are scarce, and almost all projects are tangible. The "we the people" rhetoric sounds patriotic... Peter Drucker said, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood." Gig Harbor's budget is online. If you read it, or any other local government budget, you'll find next to zero waste these days.

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