A rumble, and a reminder | Editor's Note

By Brian Soergel | Dec 07, 2018

Last Thursday morning, I met with Public Works Director Phil Williams, City Engineer Rob English, and Zachary Richardson, the City’s new stormwater engineer.

We discussed global warming, rising sea levels, earthquakes, tsunamis – all that kind of fun stuff – and their possible effects on Edmonds in the here-and-now and in the near future. And far future.

Look for comprehensive coverage as a result of this conversation soon in the Edmonds Beacon.

When I arrived home, I turned on CNN and learned a magnitude 7.0 earthquake had struck near Anchorage, Alaska, at 8:29 a.m. local time. Turns out that was just about the time my meeting at City Hall wrapped up, as Anchorage is two hours behind Pacific Standard Time.

I’ll take that as a sign. A coincidence. A message from on high.

My meeting was prompted, somewhat, by recent City Council meetings. At one, Councilmember Kristiana Johnson expressed her reservations about the planned $16 million Waterfront Center, which would take the place of the dated, and no doubt seismically unsafe, Edmonds Senior Center.

Johnson said that the expected sea level rise should make us pause about erecting a new building so close to Puget Sound. She was alone in her rejection of a vote that night from her colleagues that approved a significant monetary investment by the City for the upcoming building.

At another council meeting, Williams noted – with some emphasis – that the City has $5 million in deferred maintenance of the buildings it owns. These are just City buildings.

He wasn’t referring to Edmonds’ historical buildings lining Main Street: the Beeson, the Fourtner, the Schumacher, all over 100 years old or close to it.

What happens to these buildings when the Cascadia subduction zone erupts with a magnitude 9.0 mega-quake?

What’s most striking about the Anchorage quake is that no lives were lost, although all interviewed – at least those born after the 1964 magnitude 9.2 earthquake that wrecked the city and spawned a devastating tsunami – told TV and newspaper reporters it was the strongest they’d ever felt.

Chalk it up, in part, to strict building codes in the country’s most seismically prone state.

Recent studies show that Washington state is in the top 5 most seismically prone states.

On Thursday, the conversation is Edmonds did not focus on earthquakes, but on rising sea levels.

Last week’s much-discussed (and denied by some) 1,000-page report from the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which Congress required be published, had this nugget in Chapter 24: “By the end of the century, the upper sea level rise projection of 4.3 feet would impact significant infrastructure investments throughout the Northwest, particularly in the low-lying urban areas of the Puget Sound and Portland.”

What is the City of Edmonds doing about this?

There is some good news. A City-sponsored consultant is expected to release a report in the next few weeks detailing several things the City can do now to mitigate some of effects of rising sea levels.

It’s a start.



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