Integrating Climate Resilience in Flood Risk Management: A Work plan for the Washington Silver Jackets


Mauger, G.S., Kennard, H.M. (2017). Integrating Climate Resilience in Flood Risk Management: A Work plan for the Washington Silver Jackets. Report prepared for FEMA. Climate Impacts Group, University of Washington, Seattle. doi:10.7915/CIG7MP4WZ


Climate change is projected to exacerbate existing challenges associated with flooding. Flood management decisions made today will have implications for flood risk extending well into the 21st century, and beyond. This means that communities and agencies need to plan for the impacts of climate change now in order to ensure that public resources are used effectively and that local communities are prepared to deal with increasing flood risk associated with a changing climate. Due to the complex multi-stakeholder nature of flood risk management, coordination is essential.

The Washington State Silver Jackets (WA SJ), is an inter-agency group aimed at coordinating among flood risk management agencies: FEMA, Army Corps, USGS, National Weather Service, and the Washington State Departments of Ecology, Transportation, and Emergency Management Division. Through a series of in-depth interviews with WA SJ members, this study explored ways to better integrate climate change information into flood risk management, with the goal of documenting current practices and identifying opportunities to further integrate climate change in their work. We also evaluated barriers to the use and integration of climate change information in flood risk management, focusing both on technical and research gaps as well as institutional, political, and social barriers.

Based on our findings, we developed a climate resilience and flood risk management workplan focused on the following five themes:

(1) Improved projections of future flood impacts,

(2) Resources to support local planners,

(3) Improved coordination among agencies, scientists, and local floodplain managers,

(4) Improved public engagement, and

(5) Streamlined planning processes.

Specific workplan actions were prioritized by the WA SJ team at a workshop in early June 2017 where participants identified 3 near-term priorities for their work: updates to the precipitation atlas used in engineering design, the development of improved inter-agency outreach materials, and the creation of a comprehensive climate and flood risk planning checklist. The WA SJ team is already taking action to fund and begin work on these priorities and the workplan is intended to continue to serve as a roadmap for ongoing collaboration on climate-resilient flood risk management.