GUEST COLUMN on climate change: Plan now to move people and infrastructure, including roads, out of harm's way (by Jamestown S'Klallam CEO Ron Allen)
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One of the climate change vulnerability study maps at .
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Ron Allen's guest column as it appeared in the Jan. 3-4 Peninsula Daily News.

By W. Ron Allen

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Ron Allen, the author of this guest column, is tribal Chairman-CEO of the Jamestown S'Klallam tribe.

FOR MORE THAN 10,000 years, the S'Klallam people have lived and prospered on the land and water of what is now known as the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state.

Over time, the S'Klallam people have successfully navigated a variety of changes while maintaining a strong connection to the resources, rich lands and waters of our region.

Like the rest of our community, the S'Klallam people are still dependent upon the land and water for our survival.

And like many, we have been considering how to strengthen resilience to extreme weather developments and prepare for other impacts of climate change.

In my opinion, to ensure continued economic growth, promote long-term community vitality and protect sensitive resources and assets, it is essential that we incorporate climate change into our planning efforts and operations.

The Jamestown S'Klallam tribe, with the help of Adaptation International, performed a climate change vulnerability study.

Through this project, we identified key areas of concern and possible adaptation strategies.

Sea-level rise is one of many important concerns.

We know that sea levels have been rising and will continue to rise in the future.

The tribal community can share anecdotes of the height of king tides over time, but it is important to focus on what is to come.

Relative sea-level rise (accounting for vertical, tectonic land movement) may increase by 2 feet before our grade-schoolers are 50 years old.

A relative rise of as much as 5 feet may occur by the end of this century.

Go to the shore and consider it: high tide plus 2 to 5 more feet of water.

And consider whether a storm event might damage infrastructure nearby.

The current shoreline cannot contain the projected level of seawater; it will spill over many shorelines onto the lowest land.

As a community, we'll need to begin thinking about moving people and infrastructure, including roads, out of harm's way.

We must begin the process of discouraging people from building in areas that will be threatened in the future.

Much of our tribal commerce and development will depend on the capability of U.S. Highway 101 to function efficiently as our region's primary transportation corridor.

Our hunting, fishing and gathering is dependent upon healthy and sustainable resources — all of which may be affected by climate change impacts.

In our study (available online, with maps, at we discuss increasing temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, ocean acidification, forest habitat changes and human health.

The enormity of the issue feels overwhelming.

Yet, the S'Klallam culture promotes self-sufficiency and leadership, so we must do what we can.

Our greatest barrier to success is the failure to plan well.

Resiliency has personal meaning to me and is a trait frequently attributed to the Jamestown S'Klallam tribe.

It is interesting to see it so frequently used in climate-change-planning jargon.

Within the climate context, it means the capacity to anticipate, prepare for, respond to and recover from significant multihazard threats with minimum damage to social well-being, the economy and the environment.

Let's anticipate and prepare for the changes.

The Jamestown S'Klallam tribe wants the shoreline communities of Clallam County to benefit from a planning horizon of at least 50 years, if not a hundred.

With that perspective in mind, one action we can take right now is to incorporate sea-level rise and storm surge predictions into the Shoreline Master Program currently underway.

I urge us to look ahead and be observant of trends and developments.

Let's not move forward in denial.

Let's plan and act responsibly.

This guest column appeared in the print edition of the Jan. 3-4, 2014, Peninsula Daily News.

Last modified: January 04. 2014 9:25PM
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