Hazard mitigation for coastal infrastructure

Coastal Hazard Planning: The Role of Governance in Community Resilience

Researchers examined legal and policy factors affecting a coastal community’s ability to move vital infrastructure out of the way of tsunamis and other natural hazards.

Principal Investigator

Clare Ryan, UW School of Environmental and Forest Sciences


With funding from Washington Sea Grant, researchers assessed the quality of hazard mitigation plans in Washington and the factors that facilitate or impede their implementation. Combining quantitative surveys and qualitative case studies, the researchers developed a multidimensional picture of local hazard planning, including the roles that incentives and perceived risk play in building resilience. These findings could inform efforts to deepen coastal communities’ hazard awareness and resilience.

Research Updates


Washington’s coastal communities face a range of natural hazards, from periodic storms and erosion to catastrophic tsunamis and the long-term challenges posed by climate change. Most coastal counties have plans designed to address hazard mitigation, improve preparedness and increase resiliency in the face of natural and climate change-induced events. However, the quality of these plans can vary, and actually implementing them is a challenge that requires coordinating budgets, capital expenditures and other activities across various organizations and jurisdictions. Little previous research has examined this process in Washington, which is a necessary step toward improving community resilience.


In 2018, the researchers investigated the elements that help or hinder implementing hazard mitigation plans across Washington’s coastal counties, including the role of incentive programs and network collaboration. They found both politics and a lack of state and federal funding to be major barriers to implementing hazard mitigation plans. Meanwhile, factors such as stakeholder engagement help plan implementation. The researchers found best practices for plan implementation to include involving elected officials, engaging stakeholders and holding in-person meetings with collaborators.