The climate crisis – and its consequences – are not just a future challenge but clearly felt right now in Seattle as heavy rains have pushed the Duwamish River over its banks and flooded numerous homes and businesses in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood.
South Park is a frontline community for climate change impacts. While Seattle can expect about two feet of sea level rise by mid-century and five feet by the end of the century due to climate change, low lying areas like South Park will experience more frequent and intense inundation resulting from both sea level rise and heavy rainfall. The Duwamish Valley, including the residential and industrial areas in South Park, is among the most vulnerable areas in Seattle to these impacts.
The impacts of flooding and sea level rise are devastating, and City departments are working with partners to offer immediate relief to impacted residents and workers. Seattle Public Utilities took the lead to support impacted households and has provided emergency housing for some of the families who could not return to their homes. Local partners like the Duwamish River Community Coalition have been on site and providing residents with supplies and access to resources.
What do we do about climate change impacts in the Duwamish Valley?
Adapting to sea level rise in Seattle is imperative and, given the low elevation and flat topography of the Duwamish Valley, we must start in South Park and Georgetown. In 2020, Seattle’s Duwamish Valley Program applied for and received funding to embark on climate change adaptation planning in a holistic way, one that addresses community priorities and promotes health equity by centering the voices and needs of Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC), and low-income individuals and promotes health equity. Funding from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will support the City with developing a Resilience District — a geographic strategy, inspired by global models, focused on adapting to flood risk and other climate change impacts as a key first step towards adapting to a changing climate, while taking a comprehensive approach that fosters community resilience.
A resilience district is an innovative proposal to prepare for, withstand, adapt to, and recover from challenges that come from environmental issues, climate change, and economic displacement pressure.
Through the Duwamish Valley resilience district initiative, Seattle and community partners are exploring ways to stabilize communities as we make critical investments to reduce climate risk and adapt to the impacts we are already seeing. Over the next few years, the City will be working with residents and businesses to develop the community organizational structures, funding mechanisms, and infrastructure investments to make sure that families and businesses can thrive in place.
Mayor Harrell’s One Seattle Climate Justice Agenda is also accelerating additional investments in building community resilience to climate change. Seattle’s Green New Deal centers on partnerships with and investments in those most impacted by the climate crisis and the Duwamish Valley Program addresses historic and ongoing environmental and health disparities in the South Park and Georgetown neighborhoods.
To learn more about Seattle’s climate justice work, visit https://www.seattle.gov/environment.
If you experience flooding, please make sure people and pets are safe. If it is a life-threatening emergency, please call 911. For urgent but not life-threatening flooding, please call SPU’s 24/7 Operations Response Center at (206) 386-1800.