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Encyclopedia of Puget Sound


Rethinking shoreline armoring

Before and after view of shoreline restoration project at Penrose Point State Park in Pierce County, WA.

Salish Sea Currents presents an in-depth series focusing on shoreline armoring in the Puget Sound region. Close to a third of Puget Sound's shoreline is classified as armored with bulkheads and other structures meant to hold back storm surge and erosion. But new studies reveal the often significant toll this is taking on the environment. To be notified of new Salish Sea Currents stories, subscribe to the Puget Sound Institute eNews.

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State guidelines offer new approaches to shoreline protection

Bulkhead removal is becoming an attractive option for many shoreline property owners as awareness spreads of their geological and ecological impacts, and as aging bulkheads come up for replacement. New state guidelines provide alternatives to hard armor.

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Marine Shoreline Design Guidelines (MSDG) report cover

Sources of sand: maps show crucial “feeder bluffs”

For more than a hundred years, property owners have seen shoreline erosion as the enemy. But it turns out that in many cases erosion is actually a good thing — crucial, according to scientists — because it provides the sand and gravel needed for healthy beaches.

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Feeder bluff and beach at Fort Flagler Historical State Park. Marrowstone Island, WA. Photo: Kris Symer (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Studies point to gap in permits for shoreline armoring

A significant number of Puget Sound property owners have been altering their shorelines without required permits. A new report suggests that state and local regulators should increase enforcement and make penalties more costly for violators.

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Chart: Local shoreline changes in King County (2012-13). Source: King County, 2014

Shoreline restoration turns to private property owners

By removing bulkheads where they can, property owners are improving shoreline habitat, one piece at a time. Officials from county and nonprofit groups have been offering assistance and finding new ways to connect with property owners.

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Pat Collier walking along the restored beach in front of her Maury Island home. Photo: Christopher Dunagan/PSI

Shoreline armoring's effect on the food web

The removal of shoreline armoring in Puget Sound has become a priority for state and federal agencies, but until recently there have been relatively few scientific studies of armoring's local impact. New research looks at the pronounced biological and ecological effects of these common shoreline structures, especially for tiny beach-dwelling creatures that make up the base of the food web.

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Storm surges against the bulkheads protecting beach houses at Mutiny Bay, WA. Photo: Scott Smithson (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/dtwpuck/15725058917