Project Setting

Oregon’s coastal communities are exposed to chronic coastal change and flooding hazards due to sea level rise, changing storminess patterns, and increased development. Additionally, Oregon is exposed to one of the most extreme acute coastal hazards in the world. The Cascadia Subduction Zone runs from Northern California to British Columbia and a 9.0 magnitude earthquake along this fault will trigger intense ground motions and a 10 m tsunami that will inundate Oregon’s coastal communities within tens of minutes.

Adaptation planning and mitigation measures can ensure that hazardous events will have short-lived consequences and more manageable outcomes. However, planning for both chronic and acute coastal hazards in Oregon has historically faced barriers such as limited financial resources, lack of capacity at local levels, and slow institutional channels to create changes in policy and regulations.

Project Significance

By quantitatively examining common resilience decisions and associated trade-offs across a range of scales (communities, to counties, to the entire state), it’s possible to achieve significant gains in developing adaptation pathways and hazard resilient mitigation measures. Each of these decisions requires assessments of change in demographics, economic projections, examinations of adaptation measure cost-benefits, all while minimizing risks to hazards. The OCF project will develop, apply, and assess a framework for increasing coastal community adaptation and resilience to chronic and acute coastal hazards. Our goal is to apply the framework to increase adaptation and resilience within Oregon’s coastal communities while designing it to be adaptable to other U.S. regions also facing chronic and acute coastal hazards.

Why do we need the OCF project?

Most existing approaches for assessing resilience rely on conceptual frameworks or qualitative rating tools or indices which are often not directly useable by communities when deciding among various adaptation strategies, particularly those that address both chronic and acute hazards. The approach we are proposing will develop quantitative measures of resilience in terms of the loss of quality of a particular system function (electric power, transportation) or resilience metric (# of homes impacted by flooding) integrated over the recovery period following a disturbance.

Previous Oregon Coastal Futures (OCF) projects identified the need for a full accounting of localized socio-economic costs and benefits of strategies that address both chronic and acute hazards concurrently. Additionally, many previous meetings, committees, and reports have indicated the need for improved adaptation planning along the entire Oregon coastline. Our successful SEED project further highlighted and added to the significant portfolio of chronic and acute hazard adaptation pathways. The pressing need now is to quantitatively explore this portfolio and examine the potential costs and benefits of various strategies.


[1] Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission (OSSPAC), 2013. The Oregon Resilience Plan, Reducing risk and improving recovery for the next Cascadia earthquake and tsunami, report to the 77th Legislative Assembly, 306pp.

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