The National Estuarine Research Reserve’s “Planning for Climate Change” Workshop

Rachel M. Gregg
Posted on: 3/29/2010 - Updated on: 10/28/2021

Posted by

Rachel Gregg

Project Summary

Pilot workshops were conducted in March 2009 to educate and train coastal managers and planners in Washington State on climate change impacts and adaptation strategies. These workshops were developed by an interdisciplinary team from the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR), Washington Sea Grant, the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group, and King County with assistance from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Washington Department of Ecology.


The Planning for Climate Change workshop was developed for use by the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, but is also available for other agencies, institutions, and communities. Pilot workshops were developed and held in March 2009 in Washington State. This workshop served as an Adaptation 101 for coastal resource managers and shoreline planners, providing information on impacts, current regulations addressing climate change, how to conduct vulnerability assessments, and adaptation planning. The training offered by this workshop model provided tools, sources of data, strategies, and practical exercises to engage participants in methods to prepare for climate change.


This project was funded by a grant from NOAA’s Coastal Services Center. Partners included the Padilla Bay NERR, Washington Sea Grant, the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group, and King County. Project leads sent out a needs assessment survey to coastal planners and resource managers in Washington State, which was used to inform the design of the workshop. Respondents were asked to prioritize needs in three categories: impacts of concern, impacts to management, and planning for climate change. The results indicated that participants were primarily interested in:

  1. Impacts:
    1. Sea level rise (risk to infrastructure, property loss, habitat loss);
    2. Pressures on salmon and other marine species;
    3. Decreasing snowpack and impacts to water supply;
    4. Shoreline erosion;
    5. Flooding
  2. Management:
    1. Potential regional impacts of climate change;
    2. Ecosystem management;
    3. Land use planning and zoning;
    4. Water resources management;
    5. Science of climate change/sea level rise
  3. Planning:
    1. Scoping climate change impacts to major areas of responsibility or interest;
    2. Fundamental concepts in planning for climate change;
    3. Identifying priority planning areas relevant to climate change impacts;
    4. Information/data sources for assessment and planning;
    5. Case studies based on the information collated from the survey 

Workshop sessions included:

  • Global and Pacific Northwest Climate Change. This included specific examples of projected impacts to coastal and ocean resources.
  • Sea Level Rise and Coastal Impacts. An overview was provided on the science and impacts of sea level rise, and its implications for land use planning.
  • Fundamental Concepts in Planning for Climate Change. Strategies for and case studies of adaptation planning were explained.
  • Community Engagement and Addressing Barriers to Adaptation. Strategies for engaging the public and elected officials and overcoming barriers were provided.
  • Technical Tools and Resources. Participants were directed to sources of information, tools, and data on climate change and given a “how to” on conducting vulnerability assessments.
  • Identifying Vulnerabilities in Your Community. During this exercise, attendees were asked to identify their community’s vulnerabilities to climate change in the following sectors: natural resources, built infrastructure, public services, cultural resources, and local economy. In addition, the participants were asked to identify steps to reduce vulnerability, the time frame needed for implementation, who would be involved, and how to monitor and measure effectiveness.
  • Summary of Washington State’s Climate Change Program and Implications for Major Washington State Planning Regulations. Attendees were given details on existing and planned regulations to address climate change in Washington.
  • Brief World Tour of Climate Adaptation Projects. Case studies were provided on what organizations are doing to address climate change. During the workshops, participants were given binders filled with printouts of the session presentations and materials, such as fact sheets and reports on climate change impacts and adaptation. Attendees were asked to evaluate the classes; the results showed that these pilot workshops were extremely useful.

Outcomes and Conclusions

The project was completed in June 2009. The Padilla Bay NERR continues to design and conduct workshops and trainings around climate science. Additionally, the NERR site is used by the Washington Department of Ecology’s Coastal Training Program, which provides practical, science-based training to professionals who make decisions about shoreline management.


Gregg, R. M. (2021). The National Estuarine Research Reserve's "Planning for Climate Change" Workshop [Case study on a project of the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and Washington Sea Grant]. Version 2.0. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. (Last updated August 2021)

Project Contacts

Affiliated Organizations

Padilla Bay is an estuary at the saltwater edge of the large delta of the Skagit River in the Salish Sea. It is about eight miles long (north to south) and three miles across. In 1980, this bay was selected to be included in the National Estuarine Research Reserve System.

Established in 1968, Washington Sea Grant (WSG) began as a federal experiment in local investment, building on the University of Washington’s academic strengths in marine science, engineering and policy. In 1971, it became one of the first four programs designated nationally as a Sea Grant College. Today, WSG is part of a national network of 30 Sea Grant colleges administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce.

The Climate Impacts Group (CIG) is an internationally recognized interdisciplinary research group studying the impacts of natural climate variability and global climate change (“global warming”). Research at the CIG considers climate impacts at spatial scales ranging from local communities to the entire western U.S. region, with most work focused on the Pacific Northwest (PNW). Through research and interaction with stakeholders, the CIG works to increase community and ecosystem resilience to fluctuations in climate.

Related Resources

Adaptation Phase
Sharing Lessons
Sector Addressed
Climate Justice
Conservation / Restoration
Culture / Communities
Disaster Risk Management
Education / Outreach
Land Use Planning
Rural / Indigenous Livelihoods
Transportation / Infrastructure
Water Resources
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