Opinion

Olympia must see to flooding

How much sense does it make to build a new Olympia City Hall where the city's own maps show flooding will occur with a rise in sea level?

Is it rational to have a police station in a flood zone?

Those are serious questions the Olympia City Council must address now, not after construction has begun.

What's troubling is the city's own maps show that very piece of Port of Olympia property selected for the new City Hall will flood if global warming results in a sea level rise in southern Puget Sound. It was enough of a concern to cause councilwoman Karen Messmer to vote against the port property as a location for the new headquarters for the city of Olympia. Messmer also voted against putting the Hands On Children's Museum in an adjacent parcel - also subject to flooding.

Sea level rise is a legitimate concern that other council members should take seriously.

A University of Oregon study issued in January estimated that sea level would rise two feet, swamping 56 square miles of South Sound by the end of the century - affecting the lives of 44,429 people. The Puget Sound Action Team has suggested sea levels could rise by 3 feet, Messmer said.

City projections show that a 2-foot rise in the level of saltwater would cause Budd Inlet to flood the East Bay City Hall site.

Messmer is right when she says that the city should do more research before investing millions of dollars in a City Hall that might be partially underwater in the future.

"I want some assurance that we are going to address this flooding issue," Messmer said.

Doesn't it make sense for the city to address the sea level rise issue for all of downtown Olympia BEFORE deciding to build a pair of multimillion dollar structures in an area they know will flood?

Assistant Olympia City Manager Subir Mukerjee said the city will hold a public forum sometime this year to hash out solutions to the sea level rise problem, after which the city will put together an action plan.

Lowering greenhouse gas emissions would also address the global warming problem, Mukerjee said. "It'll take more than just Olympia doing that," he said. "It's something we need to look at statewide, nationally and internationally."

And that's the point. In their haste to build a City Hall, the Olympia City Council has chosen to ignore the threat of flooding with a promise to address that problem sometime in the future.

Does that make sense?

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