Climate Change is here. 

The Pierce County Council passed legislation endorsing the Sustainability 2020 Plan in 2016. A portion of the plan called for “a completed Climate Change Resilience Strategy for Pierce County. This strategy will develop recommendations with priority action steps.”

This Climate Change Resilience plan formally starts the process of preparing for the impacts of Climate Change in a manner that should reduce risks to people and minimize financial losses to the County. Preparing for the impacts of Climate Change is the responsible thing to do for the residents of Pierce County.

Environmental Impacts


Click on a number to learn more.

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Department of Emergency Management

Airports & Ferries

Planning & Land Services

Roads & Bridges


Wastewater Treatment Plant

Surface Water Management & Salmon Recovery

Department of Facilities Management

Department of Parks & Recreation


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Department of Emergency Management

Pierce County Emergency Management works in partnership with cities, counties, state and federal agencies, tribes, special purpose districts, non-profit organizations, community groups, and businesses to provide leadership and support in developing a regional approach to emergency planning, response, and recovery. These collaborations are essential for effective coordination of information, resources, and services throughout the region.

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Climate Impacts


Climate change is projected to increase the frequency and severity of severe weather, flood, heat wave, fire, and landslide emergencies that will require a coordinated response. This increase will require additional and expanded emergency response.



Current Efforts

Mitigation Planning

Region 5 All Hazard Mitigation Plan

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Regional Mitigation Collaboration

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Response Planning

Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP)

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Pierce County Continuity of Government (COGO) and Continuity of Operations (COOP) Plans 

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Public Education

Emergency Management’s community outreach program manages efforts to get the community personally informed about and prepared for all hazards, including climate change 

Early Action (0-3 Years)
Emergency Management has identified three new actions to be completed over the next three years:
  • Annually review mitigation actions carried out within Pierce County and propose modifications based on current and changing conditions.
  • Integrate current information about climate change impacts into ongoing public education presentations and campaigns.
  • Incorporate a natural hazard scenario that includes the magnified impacts of climate change into a drill/exercise for emergency response coordination.
Long Term Action 
(4-10 Years)
Emergency Management is engaged in a long-term, multi-faceted recovery planning effort:
  • Recovery Planning: Pierce County is working to establish a recovery framework to assist individuals, families, businesses, and government to recover from an emergency in a manner that sustains the physical, emotional, social, and economic well-being of the community. The recovery framework will enable Pierce County to execute the six Recovery Support Functions identified within the National Disaster Recovery Framework.

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Planning & Public Works
Airports & Ferries

Pierce County owns two ferry vessels and three landings which service Anderson and Ketron Islands. The ferries transport about 400,000 riders annually and make approximately 14 runs daily between Anderson Island and the town of Steilacoom.
Ferry Climate Impacts

The County also owns two airports; Thun Field, located in Puyallup is home to about 230 aircraft and has about 100,000 take-offs and landings annually. Tacoma Narrows Airport, located in Gig Harbor, is home to about 140 aircraft and experiences about 80,000 take-offs and landings annually.

Airports Climate Impacts


Airports and Ferries are ready to adjust to the climate impacts we see coming.
Looking at the viability of retrofitting our ferry docks by 2040 and the viability of an electric ferry are crucial efforts.



Current Efforts
  • Continue to implement asset management for both the Ferry and Airport to develop effective maintenance/replacement schedule.
  • Continue to monitor storm water systems at the Airports.
  • Ensure that both County and contracted staff receive annual training in heat awareness.  

Early Action (0-3 Years)
  • Build data for our asset management system.
  • Identify trends in the life cycle of Airport and Ferry assets and search for longer-lasting, adaptable assets.
  • Ensure that procurement decisions consider changes in climate.

Long Term Action 
(4-10 Years)
  • Continue to identify trends in the life cycle of Airport and Ferry assets and look for longer-lasting, adaptable assets.
  • Ensure storm water systems are adequate and maintain runway/apron areas.


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Planning & Land Services

Pierce County complies with all requirements of the Growth Management Act, which includes adoption and periodic updates of the Pierce County Comprehensive Plan and Countywide Planning Policies and participation in development and maintenance of Multicounty Planning Policies. The GMA contains the primary state-level mandates to identify and protect critical areas, with special consideration given to areas that support salmonids, and to identify and protect resource lands of long-term significance. Pierce County uses Washington State Office of Financial Management and Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) growth projections for planning purposes. 

The Pierce County Comprehensive Plan lays out a policy framework for land use in Pierce County, which is implemented by the Title 18 series of development regulations. 
Climate Impacts

A core focus of GMA and the County’s Comprehensive Plan is ensuring that designated urban growth areas and planned infrastructure improvements are adequate for anticipated population growth. According to current estimates, the population of the central Puget Sound region is projected to increase from about 3.69 million people in 2010 to nearly 5 million people in 2040. However, some areas of the United States are projected to face substantial drought and heat impacts from the changing climate, which could shift migration patterns towards areas less impacted by climate change, such as the Puget Sound region. Current growth projections used by PSRC do not account for increased migration due to climate disruption. Increased population growth beyond what is planned would strain services and infrastructure and could result in political pressure to expand the urban growth boundary.



Current Efforts
  • Continue to implement asset management for both the Ferry and Airport to develop effective maintenance/replacement schedule.
  • Continue to monitor storm water systems at the Airports.
  • Ensure that both County and contracted staff receive annual training in heat awareness.  

Early Action (0-3 Years)
  • Build data for our asset management system.
  • Identify trends in the life cycle of Airport and Ferry assets and search for longer-lasting, adaptable assets.
  • Ensure that procurement decisions consider changes in climate.

Long Term Action 
(4-10 Years)
  • Continue to identify trends in the life cycle of Airport and Ferry assets and look for longer-lasting, adaptable assets.
  • Ensure storm water systems are adequate and maintain runway/apron areas.


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Rising Sea Levels

To mitigate and assess how climate change could impact roadway infrastructure as a result of rising sea levels, PCPPWROD staff used lidar data in a geographic information system (GIS) to identify roads and bridges within two feet of the mean higher high-water line (MHHWL) in marine areas. There have been many studies done to predict how much sea levels could rise within the next 80 years and they range from one to five feet. Two feet was chosen as a mid-level threshold by the Pierce County Climate Resiliency Team. Twenty five road segments totaling about seven miles, three bridges and 188 culverts would flood more under this scenario.   

View List
Frequently Flooded Pierce County Owned & Maintained Roads

In addition to this, staff researched historic flooding data to identify County owned and maintained roads that have flooded in the past (See Table 2). The roads listed below will be at an even higher risk of flooding in the future because precipitation events are predicted to have longer durations and greater intensity. It is likely that more roads will be added to this list over time as flooding becomes more frequent and severe.

View List
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Climate change presents a series of challenges for our agency and will most likely 
have many negative impacts to the roadway infrastructure. 






  • More frequent and higher intensity rain events could result in more recurrent and destructive flooding
  • New drainage infrastructure will have to be designed larger which will increase costs
  • Older drainage infrastructure in flood prone areas may need to be upgraded
  • The roadways in marine areas as listed in Table 1 will flood more frequently during high tides and when storm surges occur so they may need to be closed for extended periods of time which may leave residents without vehicle access
  • Increased road closures and travel delays throughout Pierce County
  • Landslide risk may increase due to increased rainfall intensity and volumes
  • Some roadways near marine areas may need to be abandoned, elevated and or relocated which would create the need to secure additional funding.  If the roads were to be abandoned this could increase traffic congestion on other roadways
  • More frequent high wind events would require devoting more resources to address downed utility lines and remove fallen trees from the roadways
  • Higher ambient air and surface temperatures for extended periods may increase rutting and thermal cracking in Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA) surfaced roadways, requiring increased maintenance, and potential changes to HMA and concrete mix design standards
  • Higher ambient air and surface temperatures for extended periods may increase the potential for concrete roadway sidewalk buckling and heaving

What Can We Do to Build Resilience?



Current Efforts
  • PCPPWMOD staff have received FEMA sponsored emergency management response training and utilize the National Incident Management System model to prepare for, prevent, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the effects of incidents or events regardless of the incident’s cause, size, location, or complexity.  PCPPWMOD also utilizes the Incident Command System which is a standardized approach to the command, control, and coordination of an emergency response event. 
  • Emergency response efforts focus on public safety and returning roadways to operational functionality. Resources are first distributed to priority roads classified as major arterials and collectors, Lifeline Emergency routes, Access roads to highways and freeways and Pierce Transit and school bus routes to ensure that these roadways are kept open and operational.  As conditions improve the resources are distributed out to the other roads in our system which are primarily local access roadways.  The current climate change concerns indicate that significant and severe weather-related emergency response volumes will increase over time and will likely affect our ability to meet our mission goals 
  • PCPPWMOD will work with County staff along with local, state and federal agencies to identify potential funding sources for supplemental maintenance and preservation work required as a result of flooding.  Supplemental funding will help PCPPWMOD respond to emergency events in a timely and effective manner so that roadways are kept safe and open.  PCPPWMOD will make sure that any work done is in compliance with all local, state, and federal environmental regulations.  
Early Action (0-3 Years)
  • Identify Vulnerable Areas and Assess Predicted Impacts to Businesses, Residents and the Environment
  • Develop a Prioritization Decision Tree to Determine Where and When to Invest Funds for Infrastructure Improvements 
  • Identify Potential Funding Sources to Address Site Specific Climate Change Resiliency Projects
  • Work with other Departments to Develop Heat Stress Prevention Policy for Staff
  • Evaluate Programs on a Regular Basis to Incorporate New Information
  • Work Closely with Emergency Management During Emergency Events to Alert Travelers of Problems
  • Identification of External Resources That Can Be Used For Emergencies
Long Term Action 
(4-10 Years)
  • Train Personnel on the Potential Impacts of Climate Change and How This May Change Their Roles and Responsibilities
  • Secure Funding to Upgrade Vulnerable Transportation Resources
  • Revise Budgeting Process and Protocols to Account for Recent Trends Which are Different from Historical Baselines
  • Assess HMA Mix to Determine if Changes are Needed
  • Improve Inter-Agency Coordination, Information Sharing, Resource Sharing, and Risk Assessment with Key Stakeholders to Streamline Process During Emergency Events
  • Establish Honest and Continued Dialogue with the Public and Elected Officials about Funding Shortfalls, Climate Change Impacts and Realistic Expectations for Level of Service

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Surface Water Management & Salmon Recovery

Surface Water Management (SWM) is a utility within planning and public works. SWM has broad ranging responsibilities from flood risk management, water quality compliance, shellfish protection, salmon recovery, and property management.
  1. Sea Level Rise
  2. Water Temperature
  3. Sediment
  4. Wildfire & Heat
  5. Mountain Glaciers
  6. Flooding / Precipitation
  7. Ocean Acidity
  8. Landslides

The moderate estimate from NOAA is that Puget Sound sea level could rise by 50 inches by 2100. This would lead to more severe coastal flooding which will impact properties and structures in low lying coastal areas as powerful waves will be able to travel further inland. 

SWM will be responsible for updating flood risk mapping and communicating these changing risks. Change in sea level will affect ongoing projects such as Clear Creek that has a goal of optimizing farming in the floodplain and in areas where there are intertidal salmon recovery projects. These changes aren’t necessarily adverse, but they could alter the original intent of the projects. SWM has purchased many riverine properties from willing sellers tired of repairing repeated flooding damage or worrying about potential flooding. 

This program would likely expand to add coastal properties as damages mount. Sea level rise will put additional pressure on salmon habitat as shoreline habitat risks being eliminated where shoreline armoring is expanded.

Climate change presents a series of challenges for our agency and will most likely 
have many negative impacts to the roadway infrastructure. 






What Can We Do to Build Resilience?



Current Efforts
  • PCPPWMOD staff have received FEMA sponsored emergency management response training and utilize the National Incident Management System model to prepare for, prevent, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the effects of incidents or events regardless of the incident’s cause, size, location, or complexity.  PCPPWMOD also utilizes the Incident Command System which is a standardized approach to the command, control, and coordination of an emergency response event. 
  • Emergency response efforts focus on public safety and returning roadways to operational functionality. Resources are first distributed to priority roads classified as major arterials and collectors, Lifeline Emergency routes, Access roads to highways and freeways and Pierce Transit and school bus routes to ensure that these roadways are kept open and operational.  As conditions improve the resources are distributed out to the other roads in our system which are primarily local access roadways.  The current climate change concerns indicate that significant and severe weather-related emergency response volumes will increase over time and will likely affect our ability to meet our mission goals 
  • PCPPWMOD will work with County staff along with local, state and federal agencies to identify potential funding sources for supplemental maintenance and preservation work required as a result of flooding.  Supplemental funding will help PCPPWMOD respond to emergency events in a timely and effective manner so that roadways are kept safe and open.  PCPPWMOD will make sure that any work done is in compliance with all local, state, and federal environmental regulations.  
Early Action (0-3 Years)
  • Identify Vulnerable Areas and Assess Predicted Impacts to Businesses, Residents and the Environment
  • Develop a Prioritization Decision Tree to Determine Where and When to Invest Funds for Infrastructure Improvements 
  • Identify Potential Funding Sources to Address Site Specific Climate Change Resiliency Projects
  • Work with other Departments to Develop Heat Stress Prevention Policy for Staff
  • Evaluate Programs on a Regular Basis to Incorporate New Information
  • Work Closely with Emergency Management During Emergency Events to Alert Travelers of Problems
  • Identification of External Resources That Can Be Used For Emergencies
Long Term Action 
(4-10 Years)
  • Train Personnel on the Potential Impacts of Climate Change and How This May Change Their Roles and Responsibilities
  • Secure Funding to Upgrade Vulnerable Transportation Resources
  • Revise Budgeting Process and Protocols to Account for Recent Trends Which are Different from Historical Baselines
  • Assess HMA Mix to Determine if Changes are Needed
  • Improve Inter-Agency Coordination, Information Sharing, Resource Sharing, and Risk Assessment with Key Stakeholders to Streamline Process During Emergency Events
  • Establish Honest and Continued Dialogue with the Public and Elected Officials about Funding Shortfalls, Climate Change Impacts and Realistic Expectations for Level of Service

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Public Health

Pierce County has seen rising temperatures, more extreme precipitation patterns, shifting algal blooms, changes in water conditions, and many other weather shifts in the past few years. With each of these changes, there are effects on human health. Fortunately, by working together with those most affected by these impacts, Pierce County can become a healthier and more climate-resilient community.
ExtremeHeat
Risk
  • Temperatures are setting new records each year, and rising night temperatures and longer heat waves create serious health risks.
  • Prolonged heat gets dangerous. Several days in the upper 90s and people may begin to suffer health complications and potential death.
  • This issue is particularly dangerous for certain populations, specifically elders and children.
Recommendation
  • Increase knowledge of and access to cooling centers, specifically in low-income areas where people are less likely to be able to afford air conditioners.
  • Promote information in the community on how to prevent heat-related illness.
  • Educate the community on understanding the threshold at which prolonged extreme heat becomes dangerous.
  • Focus on promoting a built environment that naturally cools Pierce County (i.e. Planting more trees in urban areas.)
Airquality
Risk
  • Temperatures are setting new records each year, and rising night temperatures and longer heat waves create serious health risks.
  • Prolonged heat gets dangerous. Several days in the upper 90s and people may begin to suffer health complications and potential death.
  • This issue is particularly dangerous for certain populations, specifically elders and children.
Recommendation
  • Increase knowledge of and access to cooling centers, specifically in low-income areas where people are less likely to be able to afford air conditioners.
  • Promote information in the community on how to prevent heat-related illness.
  • Educate the community on understanding the threshold at which prolonged extreme heat becomes dangerous.
  • Focus on promoting a built environment that naturally cools Pierce County (i.e. Planting more trees in urban areas.)
ExtremeHeat
Risk
  • Temperatures are setting new records each year, and rising night temperatures and longer heat waves create serious health risks.
  • Prolonged heat gets dangerous. Several days in the upper 90s and people may begin to suffer health complications and potential death.
  • This issue is particularly dangerous for certain populations, specifically elders and children.
Recommendation
  • Increase knowledge of and access to cooling centers, specifically in low-income areas where people are less likely to be able to afford air conditioners.
  • Promote information in the community on how to prevent heat-related illness.
  • Educate the community on understanding the threshold at which prolonged extreme heat becomes dangerous.
  • Focus on promoting a built environment that naturally cools Pierce County (i.e. Planting more trees in urban areas.)
 


"Something Important to Say"
 
​Name


Priority Actions for Pierce County and Partners
Priority Actions
for Pierce County and Partners
Pierce County should prove to be more resilient to Climate Change than many places throughout the United States and across the globe. We do have some major challenges that need to be tackled immediately and the resilience work will only intensify as our climate changes over time. Planning now can save the County taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and will prioritize human safety and wellbeing for decades to come.

Title
1
Work with partners to plan for sea level rise across Pierce County. A partial list of local partners should include, City of Tacoma, Port of Tacoma, Pierce Conservation District, BNSF, JBLM, the Puyallup, Muckleshoot and Nisqually Tribes. Regional partners will also be very helpful in this process.
2
Make sure new stormwater infrastructure and roads projects are built to handle larger storms with more precipitation. Rebuilding outdated infrastructure is incredibly expensive so we need to make sure we get these systems sized right the first time.

3
Work with partners to plan for sea level rise across Pierce County. A partial list of local partners should include, City of Tacoma, Port of Tacoma, Pierce Conservation District, BNSF, JBLM, the Puyallup, Muckleshoot and Nisqually Tribes. Regional partners will also be very helpful in this process.
4
Make sure new stormwater infrastructure and roads projects are built to handle larger storms with more precipitation. Rebuilding outdated infrastructure is incredibly expensive so we need to make sure we get these systems sized right the first time.

5
Work with partners to plan for sea level rise across Pierce County. A partial list of local partners should include, City of Tacoma, Port of Tacoma, Pierce Conservation District, BNSF, JBLM, the Puyallup, Muckleshoot and Nisqually Tribes. Regional partners will also be very helpful in this process.
6
Make sure new stormwater infrastructure and roads projects are built to handle larger storms with more precipitation. Rebuilding outdated infrastructure is incredibly expensive so we need to make sure we get these systems sized right the first time.

7
Work with partners to plan for sea level rise across Pierce County. A partial list of local partners should include, City of Tacoma, Port of Tacoma, Pierce Conservation District, BNSF, JBLM, the Puyallup, Muckleshoot and Nisqually Tribes. Regional partners will also be very helpful in this process.
8
Make sure new stormwater infrastructure and roads projects are built to handle larger storms with more precipitation. Rebuilding outdated infrastructure is incredibly expensive so we need to make sure we get these systems sized right the first time.

  1. Work with the Health Department to better understand how we can limit health issues related to climate change.
  2. Work with local tribes and other partners to increase tree canopy around streams and increase low impact development. Consider code changes to increase tree planting.
  3. Reduce County use of fossil fuels and continue to work to reduce wood smoke (black carbon) that is speeding up the loss of Mt. Rainier glaciers.
  4. Continue to warn the public about areas that are prone to landslides. Making sure County regulations protect human safety with the most updated information possible.
  5. Develop a plan for how Pierce County can help residents deal with increased heat with cooling centers, spray parks and other cooling mechanisms.
  6. Develop an extreme heat plan for County workers that work outside in the summer time.
  7. Develop a plan to limit wildfires at County owned properties.
  8. Continue to seek funding to move people out of frequently flooded areas and continue to give rivers more room to move through levy setback projects. Continue to fund projects that give rivers more room to move and spread out so that sediment is not channelized in our river systems. Pierce County has an excellent flood plan and is leading the State with integrated floodplain management but the size and scope of the funding need is extreme at well over $200 million dollars.
Priority Actions 
for Pierce County and our Partners

Pierce County should prove to be more resilient to Climate Change than many places throughout the United States and across the globe. We do have some major challenges that need to be tackled immediately and the resilience work will only intensify as our climate changes over time. Planning now can save the County taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and will prioritize human safety and wellbeing for decades to come.  

Climate change presents a series of challenges for our agency and will most likely 
have many negative impacts to the roadway infrastructure. 






Agriculture industry

View Analysis


Wetter fall and winters will potentially slow the start of the growing season and increase the need for drainage infrastructure.

Drier summer could make growing season slightly longer but increase need for irrigation.
Aquaculture and Fisheries

View Analysis


There will likely be less shellfish to harvest due to ocean acidification and an increase in ocean temperatures will lead to lower survival rates in fisheries.

Will be harder to rear oysters, and other sea creatures that have shells.

Less food lower on the food chain will make survival more difficult for fish and is linked to the survival of top of the food chain species like killer whales. 

Construction

View Analysis


More people moving to the area provides new markets for the construction industry.

More infrastructure will be needed in the form of new housing, businesses, roads and facilities.

There will also be a need to retrofit old buildings for more intense storms with more precipitation.

Repairing structures damaged in intense weather events and increased armoring for sea level rise will provide business opportunities.

Agriculture industry

View Analysis


Wetter fall and winters will potentially slow the start of the growing season and increase the need for drainage infrastructure.

Drier summer could make growing season slightly longer but increase need for irrigation.
Agriculture industry

View Analysis


Wetter fall and winters will potentially slow the start of the growing season and increase the need for drainage infrastructure.

Drier summer could make growing season slightly longer but increase need for irrigation.
Agriculture industry

View Analysis


Wetter fall and winters will potentially slow the start of the growing season and increase the need for drainage infrastructure.

Drier summer could make growing season slightly longer but increase need for irrigation.
Agriculture industry

View Analysis


Wetter fall and winters will potentially slow the start of the growing season and increase the need for drainage infrastructure.

Drier summer could make growing season slightly longer but increase need for irrigation.
Agriculture industry

View Analysis


Wetter fall and winters will potentially slow the start of the growing season and increase the need for drainage infrastructure.

Drier summer could make growing season slightly longer but increase need for irrigation.
Agriculture industry

View Analysis


Wetter fall and winters will potentially slow the start of the growing season and increase the need for drainage infrastructure.

Drier summer could make growing season slightly longer but increase need for irrigation.
Agriculture industry

View Analysis


Wetter fall and winters will potentially slow the start of the growing season and increase the need for drainage infrastructure.

Drier summer could make growing season slightly longer but increase need for irrigation.
Agriculture industry

View Analysis


Wetter fall and winters will potentially slow the start of the growing season and increase the need for drainage infrastructure.

Drier summer could make growing season slightly longer but increase need for irrigation.
Agriculture industry

View Analysis


Wetter fall and winters will potentially slow the start of the growing season and increase the need for drainage infrastructure.

Drier summer could make growing season slightly longer but increase need for irrigation.