Climate Change in Lakewood

The effects of climate change are here – they are no longer a distant possibility. Air quality and wildlife are affected by emissions. Extreme weather is causing increasing damage. The City is taking action to reduce emissions, sequester carbon, and brace for the effects of climate change.

Climate Change Perception Survey

In 2021, the City of Lakewood worked with students at the UW Evans School to survey residents about their opinions on climate change. The survey assessed residents’ degree of concern and what evidence and effects they have noticed.  The report was presented to the Lakewood Planning Commission and City Council on May 23, 2022. You can view the discussion at Council here. The meeting materials are available here.

Comprehensive Plan Changes and 2022 Climate Change Work Plan

In 2021, City Council adopted an Energy & Climate Change Chapter in the Comprehensive Plan through Ordinance 756. The ECCC contains 89-action items.  The City Council expressed concerns that the action items should be more focused, and in 2022 directed that the Planning Commission recommend a work plan with fewer prioritized items and develop cost estimates for each.

On October 17, 2022, the City Council adopted Ordinance 776 that establishes a 3-year, 14-item Energy & Climate Change Work Plan. Highlights include:

  • Develop a five-year plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Update the City’s Nonmotorized Transportation Plan;
  • Incorporate an environmental justice assessment into the Energy & Climate Change Chapter work plan; and
  • Advocate for improvements to the I-5 corridor the Nisqually Delta at both the state and federal levels that would address I-5 traffic congestion, sea level rise leading to increased flood risk, salmon habitat degradation, military readiness and national security, environmental remediation, and Treaty rights of the Nisqually Tribe.

View the full Work Plan here.

Click here to see what types of climate change effects will be experienced in Lakewood and what the City is doing to prepare for – and hopefully reduce – those effects.

Tree Preservation

Tree cover helps reduce ambient temperature and improve air quality. Trees also sequester carbon, helping to offset emissions. The City is committed to protecting them.

Tree removal is regulated in Lakewood by municipal code and state shoreline, critical area, and SEPA guidelines. These regulations form the legal foundation to protect Lakewood’s canopy. Tree protections often conflict with property rights, so having sound legal protections is essential.

Following an intense planning process that included a tree advisory committee, the Planning Commission and the City Council, on November 7, 2022 the City Council is scheduled to adopt updates to the City’s development regulations that increase tree protections. You can view the draft regulations here. If adopted as included in the meeting materials, the effective date of the new regulations and related permit fees will be March 1, 2023.

The 2023 Comprehensive Plan amendment cycle also includes the proposed adoption of a citywide tree canopy goal of 40% by 2050.

Urban Forestry Program

Related to both climate change and tree code regulations, the City of Lakewood has partnered with UW Evans School of Public Policy to develop the structure of an Urban Forestry Program by spring of 2023, and the proposed 2023-2034 City Budget includes funding for climate change and tree preservation work.

“When a tree is cut down illegally, the responsible party will answer for it. We will stop work, we will issue fines, and we will take you to court. Sometimes the process takes time, but we do not go away. We mean business.” 
Dave Bugher, Director of Community & Economic Development. 

Nisqually River Delta & I-5

I-5’s current design over the Nisqually River Delta is a looming liability to the environment and to regional transport.

The interstate’s current design may be compromised by flood or the wandering riverbend at Wah-He-Lut within 20 years. Salmon populations are also suffering, as the areas where salmon typically acclimate to seawater are shrinking and desalinating.

The City of Lakewood, the Nisqually Indian Tribe, and the South Sound Military & Communities Partnership (SSMCP) all support legislative action to prepare for the redesign and reconstruction of this section to respond to environmental and structural issues looming ahead.