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.  

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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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