Sea Level Rise Risk Evaluation

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The Tulalip Tribes hosted a two day workshop on Sea Level Rise using Open Space Technology. Several discussions considered the elements necessary for a system that supports local government in making sea level rise decisions. This topic page is based on notes from that event.

  • Project Failure Design - to evaluate sea level rise risk requires identification of the water levels and wave impacts that are likely to cause project failure.
  • Track Sea Level Predictions - We need an up-to-date and accessible synthesis of sea level predictions. using an approach similar to the IPCC, state and federal partners could develop and maintain a description of the range of models that describe future sea level. When combined with design for project failure this allows for placing a project in a continuum of increasing risk.
  • Standardized Risk Class - Different projects pose different levels of risk. Governments make decisions that encourage, permit, and fund private and public actions in risky locations. There are two major factors that define a project: 1) the duration of time that we will have to live with the results of the project, and 2) the dangers of failure, should sea level impacts be greater than anticipated. Farm fields are different than nuclear power plants.
  • Decision Support Capacity - Funding programs and permit decisions provide a key checkpoint for sea level rise risk assessment, but existing programs don't have robust review processes, nor can diverse programs each independently develop such a mechanism. This suggest some collaborative risk assessment. Funding assessment and permit assessment shouldn't be so separated that preventable conflict between the two decisions authorities keeps us from getting the work done.
  • Acceptable Risk Tolerance - At the end of this chain of capabilities, ultimately some actor defines acceptable risk tolerance. Ultimately, someone bears liability. Liability can be determined by private insurance interests, or by the willingness of the public purse to bear private risk. How is this threshold determined. Different levels of government may identify different mechanisms or thresholds at which they are unwilling to support a decision. However in order to make an informed decision, we need all the previous elements in place.