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Sea Level Rise team eyes NOAA climate grant

Olympia Climate Program Manager Dr. Pamela Braff presents the summary of proposed activities and budget they submitted to the NOAA Climate Resilience Regional Challenge.

Posted on September 11, 2023

The Sea Level Rise Collaborative Team is eyeing a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grant, potentially providing the region with $15 million to $75 million to bolster Olympia’s resilience against extreme weather.

The NOAA Climate Resilience Regional Challenge is a federal funding opportunity with $575 million available in funds. The grant program focuses on collaborative approaches that address risk reduction, regional collaboration, and equity and building enduring capacity for adaptation.

At the Sea Level Rise Collaborative-Executive Committee Meeting on Friday, September 1, Olympia Climate Program Manager Dr. Pamela Braff said they already submitted a letter of intent and hoped to be invited to submit a full grant application. The Sea Level Rise Collaborative includes Olympia, Port of Olympia and LOTT Clean Water Alliance.

Braff explained that financial support under NOAA’s Track Two Pathway would be utilized to implement various adaptation actions. These actions may include acquiring vulnerable land; building natural infrastructure; hybrid green (natural) and gray (structural construction activities; strengthening or protecting public access to coastal natural resources; building the region’s capacity for ongoing actions that increase resilience; planning and preparing for community-led relocation and updating state and local codes and policies.

Inclusion of the state and Squaxin Island Tribe

Olympia’s climate director mentioned they held discussions with collaborative members, as well as the Washington State Department of Enterprise Services and the Squaxin Island Tribe. They decided all five entities would submit a joint letter of intent, Braff said.

In the letter of intent, Braff said they proposed the implementation of some of the midterm strategies from the Olympia Sea Level Rise Response Plan and Deschutes Estuary Restoration. “These two projects are very much dependent on each other and intertwined.”

The proposed activities they include in the letter of intent are the following:

Support essential steps towards restoring Deschutes Estuary.

  • Complete final estuary restoration design and permitting on schedule.
  • Construct habitat containment cells to facilitate shoreline restoration.

The Sea Level Rise Collaborative Team submitted a letter of intent to participate in the NOAA Climate Resilience Regional Challenge.

Implement mid-term adaptation strategies from the Olympia Sea Level Rise Response Plan to reduce flood risk and improve waterfront access in downtown Olympia.

  • Raise landscaping within Percival Landing Park and elevate existing paths to provide access to the shoreline.
  • Install raised landscaping and planters along downtown streets that parallel the shoreline and install flood gates across key access points.
  • Elevate low-lying shoreline segments and critical facilities along East Bay and the Port Peninsula.
  • Implement strategic acquisition of vulnerable waterfront properties.

Investigate feasibility of constructing stormwater peak flow management measures.

  • Analyze the costs, benefits, and approaches to separating portions of the combined sewer and stormwater systems.

Sustain and build enduring capacity for long-term coordination and ongoing adaptation.

  • Establish three full-time five-year positions, including:
    • City of Olympia — Sea Level Rise Response coordinator.
    • Squaxin Tribe — lead the Tribe’s continued engagement in these projects.
    • Washington DES –  project manager for the Deschutes Estuary Restoration project.
  • Establish annual internships to develop future workforce capacity for coastal resilience and estuary restoration.

Braff said they also included an estimated budget for these initiatives, which would cost $74.7 million.


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