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.

“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. 

Comprehensive Plan Changes and 2022 Climate Change Work Plan

The City Council accepted the 2023 Climate Change Action Plan Update Report on June 7, 2023. You can read the report here.

On October 17, 2022, the City Council adopted Ordinance 776 that establishes a 3-year, 15-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.
  • Develop/promote an urban forest management/master reforestation plan.

View the full Work Plan here.

In 2021, City Council adopted an Energy & Climate Change Chapter in the Comprehensive Plan through Ordinance 756. The ECCC contained 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.

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 is fundamental to Lakewood’s climate change preparation and mitigation efforts. They help 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.

Urban Forestry Program

On May 22, 2023, the City Council accepted a report from the UW Evans School of Public Policy & Governance regarding establishing an urban forestry program over a 5 year period. On May 31, the Council obligated $340,000 of ARPA funds to help fund the report’s recommendations for a certified arborist, tree assessment, and public outreach efforts through 2026.

Tree Regulations

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 adopted Ordinance 775 to update the City’s development regulations and increase tree protections. You can view the regulations here. The effective date of the new regulations and related permit fees was March 1, 2023.

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

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.

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.