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A Popular Beach in Tacoma is Being Redesigned Based on Climate Change Projections

Published on February 13, 2020

A view down the beach of Owen's Park on a sunny day, showing some driftwood and waves in the forefront.
Owens Beach, a popular spot that is being redesigned by the City of Tacoma.

Climate change projections of rising sea levels is one reason Tacoma is making major changes to one of its most popular beaches. It is using research from the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group to redesign Owen Beach at Point Defiance Park. Research from UW shows with continued high greenhouse gas emissions, by 2100 the global mean sea level rise is projected to be about 2.8 feet higher than it is today.

Marty Stump is the deputy director of planning and development for Metro Parks Tacoma. He said the renovation provides for long term sustainability. “One of the things that we know now through the science is that through a slow and incremental rise of sea level, as well as an increase storm intensity and wave run-up on the beach, that if left in its current configuration, much of [Owen Beach] will not only be underwater but also subject to the erosive forces of those waves,” explained Stump.

The rising water will impact people all over the world. In Washington state, 68% of the population live in counties that will likely be impacted by the rising sea level in some way. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, that’s 4.6 million people as of 2010. “We anticipate at Owen Beach by the end of the century 3 to 4 feet of increased water level, if you looked at the static water level of the sound at high tide, but with storm surge, and the wave run-up, we are looking at a 5 to 6-foot impact in the long run,” Stump said.

“Tacoma was fortunate that we were selected as a candidate city for the study that UW and Washington Sea Grant conducted and this information, the information that we’ve learned, is being shared with coastal communities throughout Washington and Puget Sound,” Stump said.

The University of Washington Climate Impacts Group has several tools and visualizations you can access now, so you can plan too.

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Originally written by Rich Marriott, Tess Wagner, and Jordan Steele for King5 News.
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