Preparing for Climate Change
While we continue our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we must also prepare our community for climate change impacts that are here now and anticipated to worsen in the future. The most significant changes projected for the Pacific Northwest due to climate change include the following:
- Sea Level Rise – increase in sea level
- Temperature – increase in average and minimum temperatures, and the frequency and duration of extreme heat events
- Precipitation – wetter winters, drier summers, and more extreme precipitation events
- Wildfires - increased risk of wildfires and wildfire smoke exposure
- Mountain Snowpack – less snowpack and shifts in the timing of stream flow
According to the 2019 Sea Level Rise Assessment (PDF) for Bainbridge Island, the most likely projections from the best available science indicate that relative to the year 2000, Bainbridge Island will experience one foot of sea level rise by the year 2060.
Extreme heat events are also a key concern for our community. In June and August 2021, the City opened the Senior Community Center as a cooling center for the first time ever in response to excessive heat warnings. Air conditioning and water were available for visitors, and BI Ride and Island Volunteer Caregivers provided rides to the Center as needed.
Wildfires typically occur during the warmer, drier summer months. Over 674,000 acres were burned by wildfires in Washington in 2021. Climate researchers predict that number will continue to rise as warmer winters reduce mountain snowpack, and hotter summers dry foliage more quickly, setting the stage for wildfire.
Wildfire smoke can impact our local air quality and cause serious health problems, especially for children, the elderly, and people with sensitive immune systems. Plan ahead for wildfire smoke: make a filter fan to filter out the small particles that are common in wildfire or wood smoke. Check out this guide from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency to make your own air filter at home with a box fan and a furnace filter.
King tides bring unusually high-water levels, and they can cause local tidal flooding. Over time, sea level rise is raising the height of tidal systems and average daily water levels are rising along with the oceans. As a result, high tides are reaching higher and extending further inland than in the past. King tides preview how sea level rise will affect coastal places. In the future, the water level reached now during a king tide will be the water level reached at high tide on an average day.
Flooding from king tides can obstruct access to roadways. If possible, move vehicles to higher ground before the king tides begin and wash your vehicle down with fresh water after driving through salt water. Elevate anything at home that could float away in the water and cause water quality degradation, such as paint cans, automotive supplies, lawn chemicals, etc.
December 2022 king tide event at Manitou Beach Drive.
For more information, please visit the City's Local Hazards page and view this February 14, 2023 "Report on Recent Climate-Related Flooding Impacts on Public Infrastructure" with images from the December 2022 king tide event on the Island.
Additionally, follow these safety precautions:
- Do not walk through flood water if possible. It is a health hazard.
- If you do need to walk through flood waters, follow good hygiene practices and wash your hands, clothes, and pets afterwards.
- Do not drive through flooded areas - it is dangerous and can damage your vehicle. Find an alternative route. Remember: Turn Around, Don’t Drown.
- Boaters should be aware that high tides cause lower clearance under bridges - check the tide before leaving the dock.
- FEMA - What to do before a flood
- American Red Cross - Flood safety
- FEMA - Anchor and Brace Propane Tanks and Gas Cylinders
Supplies to Help Prepare for Localized Flooding
- Sand bags available at the City Operations & Maintenance Facility – front gate off Hidden Cove (Limit 10 per household); Additional sand bags available for purchase at Ace Hardware or online.
- Water Bug water pump
- Grab and go flood kit
- Quick Dam Water-Activated Flood Barrier
- Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum
- Blower Fan
This information is meant to serve as a resource only. The City does not endorse these vendors/manufacturers – they are listed only for reference.
Sea level rise poses a risk to public infrastructure on the Island. The most likely projections currently indicate that relative to the year 2000, the Island will experience one foot of sea level rise by the year 2060. Preparing for sea level rise is a priority focus in the Climate Action Plan.
Mapping Sea Level Rise on the Island
COBI received two grants to complete a high-resolution assessment of local sea level rise impacts in 2023. Grant funds will be used to identify public infrastructure most at risk and start developing adaptation strategies to protect roads, water pumps, sewage infrastructure and other infrastructure on the Island.
Increasing Utility Infrastructure Resilience
In 2022, COBI recently completed the Yeomalt Emergency Drainage Repairs project to install a tidal valve on a stormwater outfall to prevent upland flooding during excessive high tides. COBI is currently designing options to relocate the Wing Point Sewer Pump Station out of a tidal zone that is impacted by sea level rise.
In September 2021, Council allocated $250,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to install solar panels and storage batteries at a limited number of emergency hubs across the island. The objective of this project was twofold:
- to increase the resilience of community disaster hubs by allowing them to generate solar electricity that could be stored in a battery energy storage system for a limited period of power during a power outage (i.e., adding solar panels and battery storage); and
- to decrease emissions associated with the operation of buildings serving as community disaster hubs by increasing renewable energy generation at each hub (i.e., adding solar panels).
Community disaster hubs are strategically located across the Island to provide limited emergency services and a meeting point for neighbors following a massive disaster. ARPA funds were used to evaluate the potential to install solar panels and battery energy storage systems that would allow for limited power during a prolonged power outage at six hubs (see the map below). Four of the six hubs were determined to have the potential to easily add solar panels based on a review of the structure, property, orientation and access to sunlight, facility energy use, and existing electrical infrastructure. Three of those sites were also identified as good candidates for battery energy storage. Learn more by reading the report below.
In October 2022, City Council authorized installation of additional solar panels at the Senior Center and to allocate $104,000 of ARPA funds to the Solar Project from the Wastewater Beneficial Reuse Project to install solar panels and battery energy storage at Hyla School Middle School. Funding for the Hyla School project is conditioned upon the School providing any additional project funding, and ongoing maintenance of the panels and battery, as match. City staff anticipates moving forward with the solar panel project at the Senior Center in early 2023, followed by the Hyla School project in late 2023/early 2024.