A proposal to develop a portion of Port of Olympia land near the lower East Bay part of Budd Inlet may put a better spotlight on the threat of climate change and sea-level rise in the capital city. So might talk of a downtown courthouse.
Developer Walker John, who has become the face of local reinvestment and redevelopment in the city’s core areas, has a tentative agreement with the port to develop public-owned land at State Avenue and Jefferson Street near the inlet. A lease has yet to be worked out.
That general area has also been talked about as a potential site for a new Thurston County courthouse in the downtown.
Whether either project moves forward, it’s important that the threat of flooding is taken seriously and actions are based on unflinching science. As we noted in March, city officials are planning on a sea-level rise of 50 inches by 2100, and the city is starting to build that into city projects around the inlet.
But it may get costly in the really long term to retain use of the lower-elevation areas of downtown and the north peninsula. It is fortunate that the city, port and nearby sewer treatment facility run by the LOTT Clean Water Alliance are moving toward a joint study of sea-level rise next year.
The port budget has $75,000 earmarked for that purpose.
A study doesn’t completely answer critics’ concerns about what the port does with land in that area. But activist Bev Bassett made a good point this week that keeping public ownership of that parcel means the port, and taxpayers, would incur costs for dealing with any future flooding of this parcel.
The upshot: There are risks to local investors, property owners, business operations and taxpayers that need to be part of a larger community discussion of climate change and the downtown strategy that is evolving.