Puget Sound Shorelines and the Impacts of Armoring: State of the Science

Abstracts and Conference Proceedings

Shoreline Armoring on Puget Sound Workshop
May 12-14th, 2009
Speakers Schedule
Tuesday, May 12
Session #1 Introduction and Puget Sound Context

8:30-10:10 am Welcome and Introductions (Hugh Shipman)

10:10-10:40 Break

Session #2 Ecological and Regulatory Setting


12:00-1:00 Lunch

Session #3 National Perspectives on Armoring


2:00-2:30 Break

Session #4 Coastal Geological Processes

3:45-5:30 Poster Session No host bar

5:45-7:00 Dinner

Wednesday, May 13
Session #5 Beach Processes and Ecological Response I


9:30-10:00 Break

Session #6 Beach Processes and Ecological Response II


11:30-9:00 Field Trip

Thursday, May 14
Session #7 National Context and Human Dimensions


10:10-10:40 Break

Session #8 Management Needs for Improved Science


12:00-1:00 Lunch

Session #9 Known Linkages – working with models

1:00-2:40 Breakout Groups

2:40-3:00 Break

Session #10 Data Gaps and Science Needs

3:00-5:00 Breakout Groups

Context of Puget Sound Shoreline Issues (PDF, 5.4 MB)

Tim Quinn

Timothy Quinn is Chief Scientist of the Habitat Program at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Tim received his MS degree in Physiological Ecology in 1987 and his doctorate in wildlife ecology from the University of Washington in 1992. Since 2000, Tim has been an adjunct faculty at The Evergreen State College where he teaches Conservation Biology in the Masters of Environmental Studies Program.

The Geologic Setting of Puget Sound Beaches (PDF, 2.9 MB)

Hugh Shipman (WA Dept of Ecology)

Puget Sound occupies a complex network of deep glacial channels and basins within a landscape characterized by thick deposits of late Pleistocene glacial drift and fluvial sediment. The result is a steep, convoluted shoreline dominated by coastal bluffs and narrow, mixed sand and gravel beaches. The Sound contains 3000 km of coastline, half of which consists of bluffs and small barriers, with the remainder including bedrock shores, several large river deltas, and hundreds of sheltered estuaries and back-barrier lagoons.

The bluffs vary significantly in height, composition, and morphology. Eroding bluffs provide the primary source of sediment to local beaches, although small streams may contribute sediment within some reaches. In most areas, larger rivers are not believed to be a significant source of beach sediment. The complex shape of the shoreline, combined with the fetch-limited wave environment, leads to the division of the coast into hundreds of discrete littoral cells, each with its own sources and sinks of sediment. Wave action is often highly oblique to the shore, emphasizing the role of longshore sediment transport in shaping coastal landforms. Redistribution of coastal sediment has resulted in widespread occurrence of small spits, cuspate forelands, and other barrier forms.

The tidal range increases from about 2 m in the Strait of Juan de Fuca to 4 m in southern Puget Sound and exerts significant control over the interaction of waves with the shoreline. Beaches on Puget Sound typically exhibit a two-part profile, with a steep, coarse-grained beach face and a broad finer-grained, low tide terrace. Beaches are composed primarily of sand and gravel, although broken shell, cobble, and boulders are often common components. Beaches are laterally heterogeneous, reflecting the irregular shoreline orientation and complex wave environment, but also the fundamental role of geological factors such as the resistance to erosion of coastal bluffs and the nearshore platform, the variability in abundance and texture of local sediment sources, and the geomorphic evolution of landforms within individual littoral cells.

Shoreline erosion on Puget Sound: Implications for the construction and potential impacts of erosion control structures (PDF, 3.77 MB)

Hugh Shipman (WA Dept of Ecology)

Much of Puget Sound’s shoreline is subject to erosion, although the rates and mechanisms by which it occurs vary significantly. Important factors include the wave environment, the resistance of coastal materials to erosion (bedrock or glacial outwash), the geomorphic context (bluff, barrier beach, or artificially filled shoreline), and the character of the adjacent beach. Erosion and retreat of coastal bluffs is a complex function of wave-induced toe erosion, driven by high-tide storm events, and hillslope mass-wasting, typically triggered by heavy rainfall and elevated groundwater levels. In exposed settings, long-term erosion rates may exceed 10-20 cm/yr, although on most shorelines, long-term average rates are believed to be only a few cm/yr.

Seawalls and bulkheads are widespread on Puget Sound. The high value of coastal property and the relatively modest wave environment make armoring both desirable and practical. Residential-scale armoring typically involves the construction of rock, timber, or concrete seawalls, with riprap revetments more common in industrial settings. Currently, approximately one third of Puget Sound’s shoreline is armored, although the proportion varies regionally due to differences in geology and development patterns.

Concerns about the potential impacts of armoring have increased in recent years, in part due to a greater awareness of the role of beaches and riparian zones in the greater Puget Sound ecosystem. Possible impacts associated with seawalls and bulkheads include burial and modification of back beach areas, changes in both the delivery and the transport of beach sediment within the littoral system, beach erosion or shifts in substrate size due to wave interactions with structures, loss of ecological connectivity between terrestrial and aquatic environments, and long-term loss of the upper beach due to passive erosion. These concerns have led to increased scrutiny of armoring proposals and growing interest in alternative technologies, including beach nourishment and hybrid structures employing large wood.

Hugh Shipman

Hugh Shipman has been a coastal geologist with the Shorelands and Environmental Assistance program of the Washington Department of Ecology since 1989. His work focuses on Puget Sound and his interests include coastal erosion, geologic hazards, beach restoration, and the environmental impacts of shoreline modification. He provides technical assistance to state and local agencies, conducts trainings and educational workshops for shoreline planners, resource managers, and coastal property owners, and participates on a variety of technical advisory groups. Hugh received a B.A. in Earth Sciences and Engineering from Dartmouth in 1981 and an M.S. in Geological Sciences from the University of Washington in 1986. He grew up near the coast of Maine, but moved to Seattle in 1983. Hugh is dangerously fascinated by shorelines and beaches and shares his obsession at gravelbeach.blogspot.com.

The Ecology of Puget Sound Beaches (PDF, 3.6 MB)

Megan N. Dethier
University of Washington, Biology Dept. and Friday Harbor Laboratories

Shorelines in Puget Sound are diverse in terms of their geomorphology and their biotic communities. The long coastline of this estuary consists of a large proportion of linear, relatively open shorelines plus small to large embayments and a number of large river deltas. Bedrock shorelines are quite uncommon in the Sound proper. As in all marine systems, the biota are very closely linked to the energy level (waves or currents) and the substrate type. The linear shorelines, which include most of the armored areas, can be characterized as muddy, sandy, or pebble-cobble. Many beaches have pebble and sand in the mid and upper shore regardless of the low-shore substrate; these upper-shore areas are physically unstable and biologically relatively depauperate, with sparse populations of worms and crustacea. Areas at or above Ordinary High Water, however, are important for talitrid amphipods (important decomposers and food for shorebirds) and as spawning habitat for several species of forage fishes that are central to Puget Sound food webs. Muddy beaches (which range from extremely soft and anoxic muds to firmer sandy mud) are often dominated by burrowing mud shrimp or ghost shrimp, which aerate but further soften the sediment with their extensive tube systems. Other common occupants of mud are deposit-feeding clams (Macoma spp.), some polychaetes (especially spionids and capitellids), and some amphipod crustaceans (especially corophiids). Eelgrass (Zostera marina) is found in sandier areas. Moderate-energy sand beaches may have extensive eelgrass beds. Certain beaches in Puget Sound without eelgrass have beds of sand dollars, which primarily live subtidally but extend up into the low shore; when present, they tend to be very dense and exclude other biota via bioturbation. Areas without eelgrass or sand dollars, especially those with more wave action, have sparse clam populations (including horse clams and cockles), and a different array of sparse polychaete species than in mud. Commercially valuable geoduck clams can be found naturally or cultured on sandy shorelines. In areas where cobbles are found on the low shore, the substrate is stabilized into a complex and diverse mix of cobbles, pebbles, and sand; these habitats harbor a rich flora (on the cobbles) and fauna (both on the cobbles and infauna). Recreationally and commercially harvested clam species (mostly hardshell clams) are abundant in this habitat type, as is a rich assemblage of polychaetes (many families) and crustacea, including Cancer crabs, other crabs, amphipods, and isopods.

Puget Sound beaches provide key linkages between terrestrial and marine food webs. A variety of birds use the beaches, include Great Blue Heron, gulls, Dunlin, and other shorebirds. On unaltered shorelines, overhanging vegetation drops both detritus and insects onto the shore, linking to detritus-based food webs (via decomposer amphipods) and to fishes such as juvenile salmon that forage on the shore at high tide. Other animals from nearshore waters probably use the beach at high tide, although these linkages have had little documentation. Nearshore waters are critical to the beach, in turn, by bringing food for the abundant suspension feeders, as well as larvae, spores, and seeds of shoreline organisms, nearly all of which have dispersive propagules. Humans use the shore extensively, for both extractive (harvesting of clams and other shellfish, as well as algae) and non-extractive (birdwatching, walking) purposes.

Megan Dethier

I grew up spending summers on the shores of Maine and was thus pre-adapted to become a marine biologist. I did my undergraduate work at Carleton College in Minnesota, despite the apparent lack of ocean there, then PhD work under Bob Paine at the University of Washington, near a real ocean. My dissertation revolved around the community ecology of intertidal pools. Since completing graduate work I have been in residence at the Friday Harbor Labs and am a Research Professor in the Biology Department at U.W. I have thus worked on shoreline ecology of the Pacific Northwest for over 30 years, first exclusively on rocky shores but now also in mud, gravel, and salt marsh habitats. I designed a marine habitat classification system for Washington state, and helped the National Park Service and various Washington agencies design shoreline mapping and monitoring programs. My recent research efforts include: 1) Investigating the linkage between physical features of shoreline habitats and their biota; 2) studying the plant/herbivore ecology and ecophysiology of an intertidal seaweed; and 3) investigating interactions between native salt marsh communities and an invasive cordgrass in Puget Sound.

Regulating Shoreline Armoring in Puget Sound

Presentation Part 1
Presentation Part 2

Randy Carman1 and Kathy Taylor2

1Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife,
2Washington Department of Ecology

The state of Washington has two main regulatory authorities for reviewing and permitting proposals to conduct armoring on Puget Sound shorelines. These authorities are carried out by the Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife and Ecology.

The state Legislature gave the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) the responsibility and authority to preserve, protect, and perpetuate fish and shellfish resources of the state. To assist in achieving that goal, the state Legislature in 1943 passed a state law now known as the "Hydraulic Code" (Chapter 77.55 RCW). Among other things, this law provides WDFW the authority to regulate shoreline armoring (bulkhead construction) in Puget Sound through issuance of permits known as Hydraulic Project Approvals (HPAs).

Bulkhead criteria were first developed for Puget Sound in 1971, and subsequently revised in 1974 to protect surf smelt spawning areas. However, regulation of activities in marine waters by WDFW was not initiated until 1977. Further restrictions on bulkhead placement in succeeding years fueled legislative lobbying by the bulkhead industry and shoreline property owners. In 1991, the Washington Legislature passed the Marine Beach Front Protective Bulkhead law (RCW 77.55.141). Property protection and human safety issues were the focus of this legislation, not habitat conservation. The ability to deny applications for residential bulkheads was essentially revoked.

Research on the use of alternative shoreline protection techniques, coordinating and conducting science-based investigations on impacts of shoreline armoring, and working with the Legislature to modify the current regulations are requisite actions to improve WDFW regulation of shoreline armoring in Puget Sound.

Washington’s Shoreline Management Act (SMA) was approved by the public in a 1972 referendum "to prevent the inherent harm in an uncoordinated and piecemeal development of the state’s shorelines." The SMA has three broad policies: (1) encourage water-dependent uses, (2) protect shoreline natural resources, and (3) promote public access. Cities and counties are the primary regulators but the Washington Department of Ecology, has authority to approve local Shoreline Master Programs (SMPs) and some permits. The SMPs are based on the SMA and state guidelines and tailored to the specific needs of the community. Local SMPs include both plans and regulations. The plans are a comprehensive vision of how shoreline areas will be used and developed over time and the regulations are the standards that shoreline projects and uses must meet.

The SMA establishes a system of permitting for shoreline development. Substantial development permits are needed for many projects costing over $5,718, or those interfering with the public’s use of the waters. Many common shoreline uses are exempt from obtaining a substantial development permit, including bulkheads necessary to protect existing single family residences.

Even if a bulkhead project meets the criteria for exemption, it must still comply with the SMA and all applicable regulations and design standards contained in the local SMP. The local SMP may require conditional use permits for bulkheads, soft approaches as an alternative to hard armoring, or may prohibit bulkheads.

Randy Carman

Mr. Carman is a Puget Sound Nearshore Specialist in the Habitat Program at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in Olympia. He has been involved in Puget Sound regulatory, policy and technical issues for over 20 years. He serves a primary role in providing technical and policy guidance to regional staff that implement regulatory programs for Puget Sound shorelines. He is also a member of the Puget Sound Nearshore Partnership’s Implementation Team and Shoreline Armoring Workgroup and is the agency representative on the Lower Duwamish and Eagle Harbor Trustee Councils.

Kathy Taylor

Dr. Kathy Taylor is a senior marine ecologist with the Shorelands and Environmental Assistance Program at the Washington State Department of Ecology and is an affiliate faculty member with the University of Washington-Tacoma. She provides scientific and technical assistance on marine and estuarine issues related to shoreline planning, policy, and management and has over 20 years experience working in marine and estuarine ecosystems. Prior to taking her current position, she worked for the Puget Sound Action Team, served as Executive Director of the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce, and held a faculty position in the Biology Department of Coastal Carolina University. She earned her bachelor's and master's degrees from Western Washington University and her doctorate from Louisiana State University.

Mitigating the Effects of Bulkheads on Estuarine Shores:
An Example from Fire Island National Seashore, USA (PDF, 1.13 MB)

Karl F. Nordstrom1, Nancy L. Jackson2 and Patricia Rafferty3

1Institute of Marine & Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
2Dept. of Chemistry & Environmental Science, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, NJ
3U.S. National Park Service, Fire Island National Seashore, Patchogue, NY

Bulkheads on Great South Bay at Fire Island, New York were evaluated to determine their impact on unprotected areas adjacent to them and to identify alternatives for future protection from coastal erosion. Great South Bay is a narrow, shallow basin where fetch distances for generation of waves are usually less than 15 km. Mean spring tidal range near the middle of the bay shore is 0.24 m. Beach sediments are medium size sands.

The shoreline is part of Fire Island National Seashore and comprises several residential communities within the park. Bulkheads extend along about 18% of the 67.3 km-long shoreline. Annual topographic surveys conducted 2004-2008 at four bulkheads and two control sites and an instrumented process-response study at one of the bulkheads reveal that erosion in a given year can be as great as 3.3 m yr-1 in the upland and 6 m yr-1 on the foreshore. Local bulkhead-influenced sand starvation appears to extend nearly 70 m alongshore. Building and stabilizing dunes to protect oceanfront homes has reduced the likelihood of overwash, inlet formation and migration of dunes across the island that would provide sediment to the bayside. Beach nourishment can restore the sediment budget in places but should be introduced in a way that minimizes burial of benthic habitat or creation of large scale exotic environments. The closest approximation of a “permanent” solution is to restore the sediment budget by creating feeder uplands close to bulkhead ends. Dredging of navigation channels provides a ready source of compatible fill.

A nourishment project is targeted to overcome bulkhead-induced sand starvation that is threatening a valuable maritime holly forest at Sailors Haven, a primary access point for boat traffic to the Seashore. The nourishment is designed as a pilot project to determine the potential for wider application. The plan is to initially place about 1,300 m3 of sediment available from maintenance nourishment of the navigation channel along 200 m of shoreline length next to the bulkhead, creating a new berm with a width of 4 m and a top elevation of 1.3 m above the low tide terrace. This elevation corresponds to the top of the active foreshore at most sites along the bay shore and should be low enough to allow storm waves to overtop the berm and naturalize the surface by reworking the sediment and depositing wrack upon it. The width is considered narrow enough to prevent formation of a new sub-environment between the foreshore and upland and reduce the footprint on the low tide terrace but wide enough to last at least two years, given the maximum annual change of 2 m measured in topographic surveys at this site. Deposition of fill material on the low tide terrace is presently restricted by state regulations, but the project is permitted as a test of the feasibility of recycling dredged sediment. The multi-year monitoring program will consist of 1) topographic profiles to determine sediment losses through time; 2) dyed sand tracer studies to determine pathways of sediment transport; 3) streamer traps to quantify rates of transport; 4) current meters and pressure transducers to provide process data; and 5) optical backscatters and current meters placed offshore to determine rate of delivery of sediment to the navigation channel.

Karl F. Nordstrom
Ph.D. Geography, Rutgers University

Current position
Professor, Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University.

Visiting Positions
Geography Institute, University of Greifswald, Germany.
Dept. of Territorial Studies and Planning, Polytech. of Turin, Italy.
Marine Institute, Universidade do Vale do Itajaí, Brazil (Instructor of short course)
Department of Geography, University of Western Australia.
Department of Geography and Soil Science, Univ. Amsterdam.
Geography Institute, University of Kiel, Germany.
Geography Department, University of California, Los Angeles.

Current Research
I conduct research on the dynamic processes affecting the size, shape and location of beaches and dunes in ocean and estuarine environments. These investigations involve assessment of winds, waves and currents and the effect of these processes on sediments, landforms and biota. Models of beach and dune change have been formulated for both undeveloped and developed coasts. Research has also been directed toward analysis of coastal land use, requiring assessments of the social implications of changes to beaches and dunes. I have conducted research on strategies applicable at the national level, such as management requirements for national seashores and Federal Flood Insurance guidelines. Activities at the state and municipal levels include assessments of the effects of creating or altering dunes and restoring naturally functioning environments in intensively developed municipalities.

The Effects of Armoring Shorelines-The California Experience (PDF, 6.2 MB)

Gary Griggs
Director-Institute of Marine Sciences
Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences
University of California Santa Cruz

The increasing development of our coastlines is colliding with a continuing rise of sea level, as well as the infrequent but more immediately threat of ENSO events with their associated elevated sea levels and enhanced wave attack. These processes and events are all contributing to the continuing erosion of cliffs, bluffs and dunes and the ongoing retreat of the shoreline. Historically, hardening the coastline through the construction of seawalls or rock revetments has been the most common approach in California to reducing the impacts of wave attack and attempting to halt or slow coastal retreat. Ten percent or 110 miles of California's entire coastline has now been armored, but for the state’s four most southerly and heavily developed counties (Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego), 33 percent of their shorelines are now hardened with seawalls or riprap.

Protection structures can vary widely in their cost, size, effectiveness, lifespan and impacts. The recent increase in the amount of coastline armored in California has in large part reflected the warm Pacific Decadal Oscillation cycle that began in 1978 and the associated large ENSO events. Proposals for additional shoreline armoring have been accompanied by an increased concern by both the California Coastal Commission as well as a number of environmental organizations with the cumulative impacts of these structures. The potential impacts of armoring the coastline include 1] visual effects, 2] impoundment or placement losses, 3] reduction of beach access, 4] loss of sand supply, 5] impacts on surfing, 6] passive erosion, and 7] active erosion. These potential impacts will vary from site to site and with different types of structures. It is the objective of the environmental impact assessment process to evaluate each of impacts in order to determine their significance and whether or not they can be mitigated.

Gary Griggs
Distinguished Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences
Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences
University of California Santa Cruz

Dr. Griggs received his B.A. in Geology in 1965 from the University of California, Santa Barbara and a Ph.D. in Oceanography from Oregon State University in 1968. He has been a Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz since 1968 and has served as Chairman of the Department of Earth Sciences, Associate Dean of Natural Sciences, and has been the Director of the Institute of Marine Sciences and Long Marine Laboratory since 1991. He has served as Chair of the University of California Marine Council since its inception in 1999, and is a member of the California Sea Grant Advisory Board. Gary was a member of the Board of Governors of the Consortium for Oceanographic Research and Education for 10 years representing four California academic institutions, and served from 2007-09 on the Executive Committee of Ocean Leadership.

Dr. Griggs was a Fulbright Scholar in Greece in 1974-75. In 1998 he was given the Outstanding Faculty Award in the Division of Physical and Biological Sciences at UC Santa Cruz. In 2003 he was awarded the CSBPA Joe Johnson Coastal Research Award. The UCSC Alumni Association honored him with a Distinguished Teaching Award in 2006, and in 2007 he was honored with being asked to give the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Ed Ricketts Memorial Lecture for lifetime achievement in marine research and education. In 2008 he was appointed to the first Science Advisory Team of the California Ocean Protection Council.

His research and teaching have been focused on the coast of California and include coastal processes, hazards, and coastal engineering. Dr. Griggs has written over 150 articles for professional journals as well as authored or co-authored several books: The Earth and Land Use Planning; Geologic Hazards, Resources and Environmental Planning; Living with the California Coast; California’s Coastal Hazards: A Critical Assessment of Existing Land Use Policies and Practices; Coastal Protection Structures and Their Effectiveness; Living with the Changing California Coast; The Santa Cruz Coast: Then and Now; and California’s Coast and Beaches.

"Design with Nature" Strategies for Shore Protection: Successes and Limitations of a Cobble Berm in an Oregon State Park (PDF, 4.2 MB)

Paul D. Komar1 and Jonathan C. Allan2

1College of Oceanic & Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State Univ., Corvallis, OR
2Oregon Dept. of Geology and Mineral Industries, Coastal Field Office, Newport, OR

The book "Design with Nature" was published in 1969, written by the Scotsman Ian McHarg, a town planner and landscape architect. With the advances in the science of ecology during the 20th century, the focus of his book was on what constitutes a balanced and sustainable environment. Based on our recent investigations of the design and success of shore protection structures, we have expanded McHarg’s concept, that we can learn from Nature in our search for improved ways to protect our shores from the extremes of waves and tides. Our goal is to design structures that are both more aesthetic and less prone to failure, while at the same providing a sufficient degree of protection from erosion and flooding.

Our interest in this philosophy began with the erosion of Cape Lookout State Park on the northern Oregon coast, first associated with the strong El Niños of 1982-83 and 1997-98, culminating in a series of unusually severe storms during the winter of 1998-99 that flooded the campground. A shore protection structure was clearly needed, but it was decided that a conventional quarry-stone revetment or seawall would be incompatible with this natural park setting. Instead, the decision was to construct a cobble berm that is similar to a natural cobble beach, backed by an artificial dune containing a core of sand-filled geotextile bags. These choices proved to be cost effective, the expense being a small fraction of what it would have cost to construct a revetment or seawall. Important for the park, the completed cobble berm and artificial dune were nearly indistinguishable from their natural counterparts on the Oregon coast; park visitors had no notion that these were shore protection "structures".

The construction of these environmentally compatible structures for shore protection provided the opportunity to monitor them to determine their degree of success and to learn more about their designs. Monitoring has included a program of periodic surveys, analyses of tides and wave runup compared with structure elevations, and other data including having tagged a large number of cobbles with PIT tags to document their mobility within the cobble berm. In the decade since construction, these structures have survived a number of major storms, when at times high tides combined with the wave runup to produce some overtopping of both the cobble berm and artificial dune. At this stage maintenance was required, mainly the loss of cobbles from the berm due to their transport to the north; this maintenance was undertaken last summer, by recovering gravel and cobbles from where they had accumulated to the north within the park, returning them to the berm.

In spite of the intensity of wave attack on the high-energy Oregon coast, this natural approach for shore protection has successfully prevented significant erosion and flooding of the park grounds. Important has been the combination of the cobble berm, which acts to dissipate the wave energy, with the artificial dune having largely prevented storm overwash events that would have carried cobbles into the park’s campground.

Paul D. Komar

Dr. Komar obtained a M.S. degree in Geology in 1965 at the University of Michigan, with his thesis having been concerned with sand sorting on Lake Michigan beaches, leading to the formation of “black sand” placers. In 1969 he obtained a PhD at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, undertaking research to measure rates of longshore sand transport related to the waves and longshore currents. Following a post-doctoral year in England (the Wallingford Hydraulics Research Station) and Scotland (St. Andrews University), supported by a NATO scholarship, Dr. Komar joined the faculty in Oceanography at Oregon State University, where he is now Emeritus Professor. During the decades of research on the coast of Oregon, he and his students have investigated a range of topics: the sources and transport of sand along that coast; the impacts of jetty construction; the dynamics of beach responses to major storms; the processes involved in episodes of property losses; and the climate controls on the erosion processes, particularly the significance of major El Niños. His other coastal research has concerned the erosion of the Nile Delta in Egypt, and most recently investigation of erosion on the coast of New Zealand. He is author or the textbook Beach Processes and Sedimentation (Prentice-Hall, 1976 and 1989 editions) and The Pacific Northwest Coast: Living with the Shores of Oregon and Washington (Duke Univ. Press, 1997).

Assessing Sediment Supply and Beach Condition in Central Puget Sound (PDF, 4.6 MB)

Jim Johannessen, LEG & MS, Coastal Geologic Services Inc.

The nearshore of King County and southern Snohomish County contains a variety of bluff and no-bank (accretion shoreform) shores, and serves as a useful example of the more developed shores of Puget Sound. Bluff sediment input, primarily glacially deposited units, is the primary source of beach sediment in Puget Sound. A key processes controlling nearshore systems and their continued evolution is the three-dimensional sediment transport system termed a net shore-drift cell. Shore protection structures (armoring or bulkheads) are common in King County. Bulkheads/ shore armoring have been shown to increase suspended sediment and the littoral drift rate, as well as cause increased beach scour and end erosion (Johannessen and MacLennan 2007, Beaches and Bluffs of Puget Sound; USACE/PSNP) and a decrease in important nearshore habitat areas.

A recent report initiated by King County DNRP was completed for the marine shoreline within WRIA 8 and 9 in Central Puget Sound. The Inventory and Assessment of Current and Historic Beach Feeding Sources/Erosion and Accretion Areas for the Marine Shorelines of Water Resource Inventory Areas 8 & 9 (CGS/ Johannessen, MacLennan and McBride 2005; http://dnr.metrokc.gov/wlr/waterres/marine/reports/marine-shoreline.htm) entailed field mapping to document the current geomorphic conditions within the study area, followed by research into the historic condition of all currently modified shores. “Feeder bluffs”, areas that had substantial sediment input into the net shore-drift system and thus maintain habitats, were mapped in segments and then current and historic conditions were compared at 3 scales ranging up to the landscape context, using drift cells as an analysis unit.

Modified shore in WRIA 8 and 9 comprised 45.6% of the total study area length (this did not include the BNSF railway/ seawall north of Shilshole). Remaining “feeder bluff exceptional” units were located at Magnolia Bluffs, north of Saltwater State Park, Maury Island, and southwest Vashon Island. Feeder bluffs were mapped along 15.1% of the study area. Twenty-two drift cells (of 61 total cells) had no intact sediment sources, as they are now bulkheaded and considered “not properly functioning”. Historic analysis (combined with current conditions mapping) revealed that the most common shoretype mapped in pre-development conditions was historic feeder bluff, which occurred along 35.3% of the 120-mile study area shore. When comparing current to historic sediment sources, there was a 63.4% feeder bluff loss for the entire study area, leaving only 36.6% of the historic sediment sources intact. Almost 40 miles of WRIA 8/9 was mapped as historic accretion shoreform; far more than the approximately 22 miles mapped during current conditions fieldwork.

Drift cells with the highest conservation prioritization in WRIA 9 include cells KI-7-2 located on the north side of Three Tree Point, and KI-13-18 on the north side of the Burton Peninsula in Quartermaster Harbor. Other high priority drift cells for conservation include southwest Salmon Bay, east Vashon Island (cell 13-12), and the Burien to Duwamish Head cell. As unmodified bluffs in the study area continue to gradually recede through erosion and landsliding, there will likely be a continued desire for landowners to build bulkheads. If carried out, this would lead to further sediment impoundment and further reduction of the natural sediment input to the nearshore system, as well as site-specific habitat impacts. The possibility of further decreasing sediment supply volumes for net shore-drift cells, along with the lag time of impacts from past modifications, would likely lead to substantially-increased, negative, cumulative impacts to nearshore habitats. Restoration and conservation efforts should proceed with this in mind.

Management of developed shores in King County needs to be a balance of minimizing additional long-term negative impacts to beaches and nearshore habitats by preserving/restoring sediment source inputs while also addressing the clearly demonstrated needs of landowners.. Moving houses landward may be the only means to both preserve habitat and allow for safety of structure over coming decades, with predicted sea level rise. Implementation of restoration of bluff sediment supply has begun but certainly needs to be accelerated to begin to restore physical processes to improve nearshore habitats.

Jim Johannessen

Jim Johannessen, of Coastal Geologic Services Inc. in Bellingham, specializes in beach processes, coastal erosion mitigation and restoration, and applied coastal management. He has designed numerous projects such as beach nourishment, sediment bypassing at channels, and other methods to reduce coastal erosion throughout Puget Sound and the Northwest Straits. Jim has worked in consulting in Washington since 1984, and started Coastal Geologic Services in 1993. Jim has a BS in geology and oceanography from Univ. Rhode Island, and a MS in geology from Western Washington Univ., and is a Licensed Engineering Geologist in Washington.

Jim has recently worked on designs for beach restoration at Seahurst Park in Burien, Marine Park in Bellingham, and historic and current beach sediment source mapping in parts of Skagit, San Juan counties, and Bainbridge Island that prioritized nearshore conservation and restoration projects. Other recent work includes writing the Beaches and Bluffs White Paper for the Puget Sound Nearshore Partnership and the Corps of Engineers. Jim has been active in the effort to improve our understanding of the interaction of bulkheads and nearshore habitats, including conducting ongoing beach monitoring around the Sound. Jim has run public education workshops and trainings in all Puget Sound and Northwest Straits on coastal management.

Observations of gravel transport and morphological response on a supply-limited beach backed by bulkheads and exposed to waves, wakes, and tidal currents, Point White, Bainbridge Island (PDF, 4.7 MB)

Phil Osborne1, Greg Curtiss1, Neil Macdonald2

1Golder Associates Inc., 18300 NE Union Hill Road, Suite 200, Redmond, WA, 98052 e-mail: posborne@golder.com, ph: 425-883-0777, fax: 425-882-5498
2Coldwater Consulting, 5510 Canotek Road, Suite 203, Ottawa, ON K1J 9J4

Direct measurements and observations of coarse sediment (gravel) transport, beach morphological change, scour and accretion patterns, beach sediment characteristics, and forcing mechanisms have been obtained over a number of time intervals from 2000 to present from a mixed sand and gravel beach on Bainbridge Island, Puget Sound, WA. The beach is backed by bulkheads and seawall structures along the full length of the study site (approximately 1 km) and has been exposed to wind waves, vessel-generated waves from both passenger-only fast ferries (POFF) and conventional vessels, and tidal currents at various intervals. Studies have been undertaken to quantify the relative role of the different forcing mechanisms and determine the corresponding time scales of sediment transport, morphological response, and scour. The measurements have been applied to validation of a system of integrated numerical models that include a tidal circulation model, a wind-wave growth and transformation model, a Lagrangain Super-critical Vessel (LSV) wake model and ProfileAnalysis, a newly-developed one-dimensional, profile-based model that provides a long-term integrated assessment of the beach response to major forcing mechanisms. ProfileAnalysis was the primary tool for investigating the impacts of tides, waves and wakes on the mixed sand and gravel (MSG) shores of the study area.

Despite small differences in wave height, POFF wakes can be significantly more energetic because their periods are longer than wakes from slower and smaller vessels. The longer POFF waves result in greater swash and backwash excursion which often interact with structures. Beach profile response to POFF operation is rapid, occurring over an interval of several weeks. Large POFF wakes mobilize and remove sand and coarse-grained sediments from the upper foreshore and deposit it on the middle and lower foreshore and shallow sub-tidal areas. Smaller and shorter period wakes from smaller and slower vessels result in net accretion of sand and gravel on the upper beach over periods of months to years. Gravel tracer measurements and beach observations obtained over a 14 month interval have helped to reveal the dominant seasonal transport patterns, which include a range of wave and vessel wake climates. Transport under existing conditions is dominated by wind waves in an alongshore uni-directional process that occurs mainly in winter. However, beach response to wave climate is also controlled by site specific exposure to prevailing winds, car ferry wakes, local sediment supply, the configuration of structures, and beach morphology. In non-storm intervals transport is brought about by the combination of vessel wakes and tidal currents; the vessel wakes provide a mechanism for gradual post-storm recovery, re-distributing sediment onshore, in this low energy restricted fetch environment. Morphologic response occurs mainly as a seasonal fluctuation of the upper beach profile from steep to flat and in sediment composition from gravel to coarse sand between non-storm and storm conditions respectively. In general, beach response does not follow the high-energy coarse-grained beach model; rather, it is more consistent with the response expected for a low-energy mixed beach backed by a seawall. The relative steepness of the beach (1:5 and 1:7) and lack of a low-tide terrace may also be a factor influencing the observed beach response. Model simulations predict the dominant spatial and temporal variations in the alongshore transport of gravel observed during the time period of measurements and enable prediction of a number of impact assessment indicators including the depth of scour at the toe of structures. The findings of both the field observations and the modeling point to the need for including an accurate description of grain composition in modeling mixed sand and gravel beach response and the need for long-term observations of both forcing and response.

Phil Osborne

Phil Osborne is a senior consultant with Golder Associates in Redmond, WA where he leads a coastal geomorphology and engineering group. Phil Osborne has a Ph.D in Physical Geography from the University of Toronto with specialization in Coastal Geomorphology and 24 years of national and international experience (United States, Canada, England, New Zealand) in science and consulting engineering. Prior to consulting, Phil pursued an academic career and was a faculty member in the School of Geography, Geology, and Environmental Science at University of Auckland in New Zealand. His work typically involves a combination of field studies and numerical and physical modeling to quantify and understand physical processes and landform dynamics. He has managed and led a number of multi-disciplinary studies for waterborne transportation, ocean energy, sediment management, and waterfront development projects. He is currently the technical lead on a number of projects investigating coastal processes (waves, currents, and sediment transport), shoreline geomorphology, and their interactions with coastal structures in Puget Sound and on the Washington coast.

Biological effects of shoreline modification in Puget Sound: Case studies and future directions (PDF, 3.3 MB)

Casey Rice, NOAA/NWFSC
Mukilteo Research Station

Human alteration of Puget Sound shorelines is extensive yet its ecological consequences are largely unknown. Historical research and monitoring efforts have done little to improve our understanding, in part by 1) not measuring biology directly, 2) not including anthropogenic disturbances as explicit factors in sampling design and subsequent analysis, and 3) not sampling across the full range of ecological contexts within the system. In this presentation I will briefly review several recent site- and local-scale field studies that have documented differences between natural and modified beaches in terms of abiotic attributes (e.g., microclimate) and biological condition (e.g., intertidally spawning fish embryo condition, supratidal invertebrate abundance and assemblage composition). Next, I will present a landscape-scale study combining historical biological and environmental monitoring data across all of greater Puget Sound to relate marine bird and waterfowl assemblage composition to natural and anthropogenic environmental gradients, including shoreline modification. Together these studies demonstrate that human alterations of Puget Sound shorelines dramatically affect abiotic attributes and can adversely affect the biota; these studies also point the way towards more expanded, systematic field studies to improve our understanding and management of the biological effects of altered Puget Sound shorelines.

Casey Rice

Casey Rice is a Research Fisheries Biologist at NOAA's Mukilteo Research Station. In nineteen years with NOAA he has been involved in several research projects focusing on the biological effects of human activities in coastal marine and estuarine environments. Casey holds B.A. and B.S. degrees from The Evergreen State College (1989), an M.S. in fisheries from the University of Washington (1997), and a Ph.D. from the University of Washington's School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences (2007).

Casey's current research areas include the estuarine ecology of juvenile Chinook salmon and other nearshore fishes and gelatinous zooplankton in Puget Sound, relationships between urbanization and marine bird and waterfowl assemblages in nearshore Puget Sound, monitoring and assessment of estuarine restoration, interactions among juvenile hatchery and wild salmon, and environmental history of the Puget Sound/Georgia Basin.

Shoreline Habitats and Restoration along Urbanized Sections of Central Puget Sound: Fish and Invertebrate Response (PDF, 22.4 MB)

Jason Toft, Jeffery Cordell, Sarah Heerhartz, Beth Armbrust, and Charles Simenstad School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington

Puget Sound shorelines have been heavily modified, especially those associated with urban centers. To what degree anthropogenic modifications affect fish and invertebrates, and how to best evaluate and enhance biological functions, are key to restoring the health of Puget Sound and must be addressed by integrating science and management. We will present a synopsis of recent research, highlighting case studies of shoreline armoring removals at the Olympic Sculpture Park (City of Seattle) and Seahurst Park (City of Burien). These shorelines have both had either riprap or seawalls removed, with goals of enhancing shallow water habitats for use by juvenile pacific salmon (predominantly chinook, chum, pink, and coho). Our research seeks to assess habitat linkages and restoration progress by utilizing various sampling techniques, including snorkel surveys, enclosure nets, gastric lavage, and invertebrate sampling. We will focus our presentation on key components of nearshore juvenile salmonid use and behavior of modified, restored, and natural beaches. Results indicate that various habitat types can affect fish and invertebrate abundance and compositions, as well as fish behavior and feeding patterns. Understanding such linkages is vital to planning rehabilitation efforts along degraded portions of Puget Sound, and will help guide the restoration of salmon habitat.

Jason Toft

Jason Toft is a nearshore research ecologist at the University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, whose primary scientific interests are the ecology of aquatic estuarine and nearshore habitats, biological monitoring of restored wetlands, juvenile salmonid abundance and prey resource dynamics, effects of non-indigenous species on native communities, and taxonomy of aquatic invertebrates.

Anticipated Effects of Sea Level Rise on Beach-spawning Fishes in Puget Sound (PDF, 3.6 MB)

Kirk L. Krueger, Kenneth B. Pierce, Jr., Timothy Quinn, and Dan Penttila
Habitat Program, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia, WA 98501

Sea level is expected to rise substantially in this century and scientists expect it to affect the structure and function of the Puget Sound ecosystem. In particular, fishes that spawn on beaches, such as surf smelt (Hypomesus pretiosus) and Pacific sand lance (Ammodytes hexapterus), might be especially vulnerable to loss of suitable spawning habitat due to rising sea level. As sea level rises, the spatial extent of intertidal beaches may contract, reducing the amount of suitable spawning habitat. Where the upward extent of beach migration (adjustment) is limited by shoreline armoring, loss of spawning habitat might be exacerbated. Because these fishes are important forage for many other species, population declines due to loss of their spawning habitat could cascade through the Puget Sound food web. We use a dataset that describes the spatial distribution of surf smelt and Pacific sand lance spawning on several beaches of Puget Sound to model some likely effects of sea level rise on forage fish spawning habitat and spawning success. Protecting and restoring the Puget Sound ecosystem, given changes associated with sea level rise, constitute profound management and policy challenges.

Kirk L. Krueger

Current Position
Research Scientist, Habitat Program Science Team,
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia, WA 98503
Kirk.Krueger@dfw.wa.gov 360-902-2604

Kirk Krueger received a Ph.D. in Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences from Virginia Tech, a Master’s in Zoology and Physiology from the University of Wyoming and a B.A. in Biology from the Minnesota State University at Moorhead. He is a Research Scientist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Habitat Program. In this position he provides guidance regarding the design of field studies, monitoring plans, experiments, collection and analysis of remotely sensed data, and statistical analysis. His experience with WDFW includes developing and implementing watershed-scale geomorphology studies, participating in long-term salmon habitat restoration effectiveness experiments, developing statewide fish and habitat status and trend monitoring methods, conducting an experiment to detect effects of dredging on freshwater mussel survival, developing guidelines and statistical tools for eelgrass monitoring, developing a study to assess the effectiveness of beach spawning fish survey protocols, and studying spawning habitat selection and behavior of beach spawning fishes. He provides technical guidance for the development, distribution, analysis and use of field-derived and remotely-sensed data for salmon recovery and habitat restoration. His area of expertise is the intersection of stream fish ecology, fluvial geomorphology, geographic information systems, and statistical analyses.

Impacts of shoreline armoring on sediment dynamics (PDF, 2.12 MB)

Peter Ruggiero
Department of Geosciences
Oregon State University

The shores of Puget Sound are rapidly being hardened and covered with artificial structures. While shoreline armoring often succeeds in protecting upland investments, shoreline armoring activities are hypothesized to represent a significant source of nearshore morphodynamic and marine habitat modification in Puget Sound.

Shoreline armoring is believed to affect physical processes in many ways, primarily by causing beach narrowing, sediment coarsening, and a decrease in the natural sediment supply from eroding bluffs. Shoreline armoring is also thought to affect biological processes through loss of upper intertidal habitat, changes in sediment composition, and decreased organic input. However, it has not been confirmed in the field or the laboratory whether currents and sediment transport rates will increase or decrease in front of a hardened shoreline, as compared to a non-armored section of beach, and whether the sedimentary environment will be significantly modified. The effect of seawalls on beaches has been found to be most sensitive to the position of the seawall within the surf zone, the beach slope, and the reflection coefficient. This talk will describe a conceptual model of seawall impacts on sediment dynamics and suggest pilot investigations specific to the Puget Sound consisting of beach monitoring, field experiments, and modeling efforts.

Peter Ruggiero

Peter Ruggiero is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geosciences at Oregon State University. Peter’s current research interests include applied coastal geomorphology and developing methodologies for assessing vulnerability to coastal hazards particularly in light of a changing and variable climate. Peter Ruggiero earned a bachelors degree in Civil Engineering from Lehigh University in 1991 and a Ph.D. in Coastal Engineering from Oregon State University in 1997. Following his graduate work, Peter worked for the state of Washington as a principal investigator of the Southwest Washington Coastal Erosion Study. This multi-year effort developed a quantitative understanding of the regional sediment dynamics of the Columbia River littoral cell. Peter then worked for the US Geological Survey in Menlo Park, CA between 2001 and 2005 getting involved in coastal studies in Alaska, North Carolina, and Sumatra. Since 2006 Peter has been at Oregon State University focusing on a variety of projects quantifying and assessing the vulnerability of communities to coastal hazards.

Ecological effects of coastal armoring on sandy beaches in southern California (PDF, 9.28 MB)

Jenifer E. Dugan1 and David M. Hubbard2

1Marine Science Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara
2Coastal Restoration Consultants, Inc, Santa Barbara, California.

We investigated predictions of a conceptual model of the ecological effects of coastal armoring on open coast sandy beaches using comparisons of armored and unarmored segments of narrow bluff-backed beaches in southern California. The model was based on observations of changes in the physical environment reported for armored shorelines in combination with results of studies examining ecological factors influencing the distribution and abundance of invertebrates and birds. Ecological effects of coastal armoring on beaches were predicted to be associated with habitat loss and reductions in the widths of intertidal zones. As beach width narrows in response to armoring, intertidal zones are lost disproportionately from the upper beach. This loss of habitat along with increased wave reflectivity and altered deposition of wrack in front of armoring structures could reduce the diversity and abundance of macroinvertebrates. Predators, such as shorebirds, could respond to a combination of 1) habitat loss, 2) decreased accessibility at high tides, and 3) reduced prey availability on armored beaches. Our results for shores with concrete seawalls supported these predictions and found some unexpected effects of armoring. Intertidal zones were fewer, lacking upper beach habitat, and narrower in front of seawalls compared to adjacent unarmored segments. Armored segments retained less wrack. The abundance and biomass of mobile macro-invertebrates of the upper intertidal were significantly lower on armored segments. The distribution of shorebirds, most of which were actively foraging, responded to coastal armoring as predicted with significantly lower species richness (2 times) and abundance (>3 times) on armored segments. The abundance of gulls and other birds (including brown pelicans and cormorants), which primarily used the beach for roosting, were also significantly lower (>4 times and >7 times, respectively) on armored segments, a result not predicted by our model. The implications of our results and the accelerating pressures on sandy beaches from coastal development, erosion and rising sea levels indicate further investigation of ecological responses to coastal armoring is needed.

Jenifer Dugan

Jenifer Dugan is an Associate Research Biologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is a coastal marine ecologist with wide-ranging research interests and expertise in sandy beach ecosystems. She is also an investigator with the Santa Barbara Coastal Long Term Ecological Research program. After receiving her doctorate in Environmental and Evolutionary Biology from UC Santa Barbara, she obtained postdoctoral fellowships in South Africa and New Zealand. Jenny works closely with colleagues around the world on the ecology and conservation of coastal ecosystems.

David Hubbard

David Hubbard is a founding partner of Coastal Restoration Consultants, Inc. in Santa Barbara, California. CRC prepares plans and implements ecological restoration projects for land conservancies and local government agencies. David got his degree in Biology from UC Santa Barbara, where he also worked as natural areas manager and ran the ecological restoration seminars for the campus from 1999 to 2005. He has investigated the ecology of sandy (and other) shores for twenty years. David has restored a wide range of habitats (coastal strand and dune, salt marsh, freshwater marsh, vernal pools, riparian and coastal sage scrub) since 1996.

Armoring of estuarine shorelines: geomorphic-biotic relationships in Delaware Bay (PDF, 1.9 MB)

Nancy L. Jackson1, Karl F. Nordstrom2 and David R. Smith3

1Dept. of Chemistry & Environmental Science, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, NJ
2Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
3United States Geological Survey, Leetown Science Center, Kearneysville, WV

Alteration of shores in estuaries to increase their economic value has been a long practiced tradition. On unconsolidated shorelines these modifications can alter physical form and behavior as well as the ecosystem functions these environments provide. In Delaware Bay, attention has focused on changes occurring to sandy transgressive barriers and American horseshoe crabs (Limulus polyphemus) that annually spawn in the foreshores. Spawning and subsequent egg development success is important to population viability for species under stress due to commercial demand. Recent declines in the American horseshoe crab population from past harvest and foreshore modification for shore protection have raised concerns for long-term viability of the species and dependent species including migratory shorebirds. This presentation provides a review of the sandy shoreline resources in Delaware Bay, describes the spatial and temporal scales of processes that govern their dimensions, location, morphology and sedimentary characteristics and compares management programs in the state of Delaware and New Jersey. Data from a series of field studies are used to highlight some of the important links between beach dynamics and habitat suitability on developed shoreline reaches.

The physical processes that rework the sandy foreshores of Delaware Bay affect the suitability of the foreshore for horseshoe crab spawning and egg development by controlling its shape, location, and sedimentary characteristics across and along the shore. Shore protection projects can alter these interactions. Elimination of estuarine beaches by bulkheads that intersect below mean water level on the intertidal profile has been noted but the effects of bulkheads that intersect higher on the profile or in adjacent un-bulkheaded beach enclaves have not been examined. Bulkheads higher on the beach profile may only affect swash uprush/backwash processes at high water levels. During low wave energies the magnitude of sediment activation fronting bulkheads is not as great as the magnitude of activation due to horseshoe crab bioturbation. During high wave energies the magnitude of sediment activation fronting bulkheads is greater than at similar elevations on adjacent un-bulkheaded beach enclaves.

Beach nourishment is viewed as preferable to bulkhead construction, but nourishment can lead to changes in sedimentary characteristics and geometry of the profile that can influence both spawning and egg development. Sediments are finer on nourished beaches than unnourished beaches in Delaware Bay. Low wave energy conditions suppress reworking of fill sediments by in situ wave activation or erosion/accretion cycles. Fill placed high on the backshore reduces the flood potential landward and the amount of habitat buried on the low tide terrace, but the backshore can remain above the zone of wave influence and be separated from the active foreshore by a scarp that compartmentalizes and restricts transport of sediment and movement of fauna. Mechanical grading can reestablish a profile slope more in equilibrium with wave conditions and facilitate wave reworking of the backshore, allow for faunal interaction between the foreshore and backshore, and facilitate aeolian transport, but some sediment would be deposited on the low tide terrace.

National Research Council Report on Mitigating Shore Erosion Along Sheltered Coasts (PDF, 2.4 MB)

Susan Roberts, Ph.D., Ocean Studies Board, National Research Council, The National Academies

The National Research Council report, Mitigating Shore Erosion Along Sheltered Coasts, examines the impacts of shoreline management on sheltered coastal environments (e.g. estuaries, bays, lagoons, mud flats, deltaic coasts) and identifies conventional and alternative strategies to minimize potential negative impacts to adjacent or nearby coastal resources. These impacts include: loss of intertidal and shallow water ecosystems, effects on species, and loss of public trust uses. The study provides a framework for collaboration between different levels of government, conservancies, and property owners to aid in making decisions regarding the most appropriate alternatives for shoreline protection. The report considers how design criteria, the mix of technologies employed, and land use plans could be implemented for the protection of the environment and property over the long term given current trends in erosion and inundation rates and a possible acceleration of relative sea-level rise. The report concludes that although loss of small parcels of shoreline habitat from hardening may not have a large impact on the ecosystem, the cumulative impact of the loss of many small parcels will at some point, alter the properties, composition, and values of the ecosystem.

Susan Roberts

Susan Roberts became the director of the Ocean Studies Board, a unit of The National Academies’ National Research Council, in April 2004. Dr. Roberts received her Ph.D. in marine biology from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Her research experience has included fish muscle physiology and biochemistry, marine bacterial symbioses, and cell biology and cytogenetics. Since 1998, Dr. Roberts has worked at the National Research Council’s Ocean Studies Board on a variety of ocean policy studies including Increasing Capacity for Stewardship of Oceans and Coasts: A Priority for the 21st Century (2008); A Review of the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy (2007); Mitigating Shore Erosion Along Sheltered Coasts (2007); Nonnative Oysters in the Chesapeake Bay (2004); Decline of the Steller Sea Lion in Alaskan Waters: Untangling Food Webs and Fishing Nets (2003); Effects of Trawling & Dredging on Seafloor Habitat (2002); Marine Protected Areas: Tools for Sustaining Ocean Ecosystems (2001); and Bridging Boundaries Through Regional Marine Research (2000). Dr. Roberts specializes in the science and management of living marine resources.

The living shoreline approach to estuarine shoreline stabilization (PDF, 2.3 MB)

Carolyn Currin, NOAA Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research, Beaufort, NC

Along the southeast coast of the Atlantic, estuarine shoreline habitats are pinched between increasing coastal development and increased erosion as a result of sea level rise, coastal storms and boating activity. Salt marshes occupy much of the relatively low-relief shorelines in the southeast, and are valued for the variety of ecosystem services they provide, including wave attenuation and shoreline stabilization. Research demonstrates that narrow fringing marshes provide many of the same ecosystem services as do more extensive marshes. However, the higher wave energy experienced by fringing marshes can alter sediment grain-size and sediment accretion patterns. Shoreline stabilization efforts incorporating salt marshes, with or without additional hardened structures, are known as ‘living shorelines’, and several states have adopted specific permitting guidelines in an effort to promote this approach. Evaluation of ‘living shoreline’ projects is preliminary, but suggests that project design and success can vary significantly with site conditions. Incorporation of intertidal oyster reefs into living shoreline design, where possible, can significantly enhance the ecosystem services provided and reduce construction costs.

Carolyn Currin

Carolyn Currin is a Microbiologist at NOAA’s Center for Coastal Habitat and Fisheries Research in Beaufort, NC. She has a Ph.D. in Marine Science from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Currin is leader of the Coastal and Estuarine Ecology team investigating ecosystem structure, function and response to environmental change. Food web research has examined trophic relationships in natural and restored estuarine systems, and identified the role of benthic primary producers in supporting fishery production in coastal and reef ecosystems. Recent work has addressed the ecology of fringing salt marshes, the response of estuarine habitats to sea level rise, and the effects of shoreline stabilization structures on ecosystem services. Current projects include research on factors impacting the response of salt marshes to sea level rise, and an assessment of historic shoreline erosion rates, on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeuene (NC), as part of an interdisciplinary team developing an ecosystem management plan for the Base. Currin is also working with university scientists, NERRS staff, and state regulatory agencies to perform research and develop outreach tools and decision-support tools in support of the implementation of a sustainable estuarine shoreline stabilization policy for NC.

Human Dimensions of Nearshore Restoration and Shoreline Armoring (PDF, 992 KB)

Thomas M. Leschine
School of Marine Affairs
University of Washington

Human relationships with the natural environment are exceedingly complex. Commonly referred to quality-of-life definitions incorporate aspects of culture, lifestyle, personal health, and family and social relationships as well as people’s “relationship to salient features of their environment”. Ecosystems have both intrinsic and instrumental value to humans and activity that extracts direct social and economic benefits from nature may do so at the cost of unintended degradation of ecosystem services. From this perspective, the task of management is to strike a balance that maintains or restores sustainability, with restoration one of numerous available tools. Seawalls and other engineered features of occupied shorelines embody many contradictory aspects of the human relationship with nature. In that they prevent erosion or wave attack, and create or protect agricultural lands or areas of human habitation, they are generally regarded as making positive contributions to ecosystem goods and services. Improved scientific understanding reveals numerous tradeoffs across ecosystem functions, goods and services associated with the extensive armoring of Puget Sound shores, in association with altered patterns of sediment delivery to nearshore ecosystems. We have little understanding of how people in the region view such tradeoffs however. Dialogue with public stakeholders can enlarge understanding of the roles that removal of shoreline armoring can play in a restored Puget Sound ecosystem in which humans are considered to be integral elements. So can empirical social research.

Thomas Leschine

Thomas Leschine is Director and Professor at the School of Marine Affairs and Adjunct Professor of Fisheries at the University of Washington. His research interests are in the areas of environmental decision-making in relation to marine environmental protection and the use of scientific and technical information and expertise in environmental decisionmaking. He has served on numerous National Research Council panels and chaired the NRC Committee on Remediation of Buried and Tank Wastes, 1996-2000. In Washington State he serves on the Nearshore Science Team of the Puget Sound Nearshore Partnership, a multi-agency consortium developing a major program of environmental restoration for Puget Sound, and recently served as advisor to the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee of the Washington State Legislature. He served on the Washington State Pilotage Commission from 1992-98. Earlier, he led the U.S Coast Guard team that produced the Federal On-Scene Coordinator’s Report following the 1989 T/V Exxon Valdez oil spill, and following service in 2007-08 on an NRC panel examining the risk of oil spills in the Aleutian Islands, he was appointed to the Marine Board of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Leschine received his PhD in mathematics from the University of Pittsburgh. His transition to a career in marine policy came by way of a post-doctoral position in marine policy, and later as a policy associate, at The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

Shoreline armoring, capital grants, and ecosystem restoration (PDF, 110 KB)

Paul Cereghino, Marine Habitat Specialist, NOAA Restoration Center

The existing socio-economic system for implementing restoration with public funds has innate strengths and weaknesses. Ecologically meaningful management of sediment supply and transport provides a particular set of challenges that our current system is not designed to meet. Restoration and regulatory protection must become better integrated. Project selection will require accurate assessment of existing conditions, erosion risks, and patterns of future degradation. Achieving desired future conditions will require more elegant and precise outreach and communications strategies with a broader audience of private shoreline property owners.

Paul Cereghino

Paul Cereghino is a Marine Habitat Specialist with NOAA Restoration Center. He develops and manages the Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program (ESRP), in partnership with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the State Recreation and Conservation Office, The Puget Sound Partnership, and the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project. ESRP is a capital grants program developing networks and systems for increasing accountability and learning through publically funded grants, to enhance ecosystem restoration and stewardship.

Developing design guidance for Puget Sound marine shore modifications (PDF, 5 MB)

Bob Barnard (WA Dept of Fish and Wildlife)

The Aquatic Habitat Guidelines (AHG) are a joint effort among state and federal resource management agencies in Washington to develop guidance documents, underlying scientific surveys, and training in ecologically sound management techniques. The AHG program was initiated in 1999 in support of salmon recovery efforts to ensure aquatic and floodplain restoration planning and design efforts were strategic, effective and the best use of limited resources. The scope of the program has since broadened to the promotion, protection, and restoration of fully functioning marine, freshwater, and riparian ecosystems through comprehensive and effective management of activities affecting Washington's aquatic and riparian ecosystems. Guidelines developed in the AHG program employ an integrated approach to protection and restoration. They seek to protect and restore the structure and function of whole ecosystems by striving to consider projects in their landscape and watershed contexts.

The restoration, regulatory and marine shoreline community is looking for guidance documents to help them protect nearshore resources while permitting development. A primary key to this problem is a thorough understanding of nearshore biological and geologic processes. A proposed Marine Shoreline Protection Guideline will integrate current science into the assessment and design processes. The current focus is the promotion and development of alternative shoreline protection techniques, “soft” armoring. Some examples of these techniques will be shown.

Bob Barnard Biography

I am an Environmental Engineer working for the Washington Dept of Fish and Wildlife for 13 years, chiefly in the freshwater environment on habitat restoration, bank protection, and fish passage. I researched and developed the stream simulation culvert design method and worked on the AHG guidance documents. My day to day duties are to provide technical assistance to the regulatory program and restoration community, as well as designing water crossings and enhancement projects. Recently I have begun evaluating and designing estuary restoration projects and marine bank protection.

Local government needs and approaches to shoreline armoring (PDF, 7 MB)

Peter Namtvedt Best (City of Bainbridge Island)

Shoreline armoring in Washington State is managed by local, state, and federal agencies, although many shoreline armoring project occur outside of federal jurisdiction. The Washington State Shoreline Management Act (RCW 90.58; WAC 173-26; WAC 173-27) establishes a joint management scheme between local governments and the State Department of Ecology, but shoreline armoring permits are usually administered through a process that occurs purely at the local government level with few shoreline armoring permits being directly reviewed by Ecology. Therefore, the State Department of Fish and Wildlife and local governments are the primary agencies directly managing shoreline armoring, but administer completely different sets of statutes and rules. This presentation will provide a brief overview of the shoreline management scheme in Washington and summarize limitations within that management scheme. Local government experience with managing new shoreline armoring, repair and maintenance of existing shoreline armoring, and removal of shoreline armoring during restoration projects will be used to highlight information and data needed by local governments to better manage shoreline armoring.