As a shoreline property owner it is important to understand how to protect your home from coastal flooding or sea level rise. Often times this can lead homeowners to consider hard armoring methods that disrupt natural ecosystems and tend to be difficult to permit and expensive to install. However, in the majority of cases, natural shorelines or soft shore protection is the preferred type of protection again the effects of climate change and sea level rise. The Shore Friendly program has gathered some useful information to help shoreline property owners understand predicted sea level rise outcomes in their area and weigh the protection benefits of choosing soft armoring over hard armoring.
Knowing the future tide predictions in your area can be useful for understanding what type of impacts your shoreline property might incur as a result of sea level rise. National Ocean and Atmospheric Association has a great tool for this and can be found here. Many local planning departments are also working on implementing climate change resiliency plans for each county. Contact your city or county’s planning department to find out more.
Understanding Your Options
Installing hard armoring to protect your shoreline home can be expensive and a permitting hassle, not to mention the bulkheads require continual maintenance thus are a temporary fix to a long-standing problem. In some cases, high tides will overtop armoring with no exit route for the water, thus increasing flooding behind the bulkhead, exacerbating erosion and drainage issues while also damaging the bulkhead. The armoring also locks up sand and sediment preventing natural movement along the beach.
Natural shorelines are preferred, however, where feasible, soft shore options can help abate the effects of climate change and sea level rise. Soft shore techniques, such as beach nourishment, log placement, and native vegetation including large trees and shrubs allow the area to “deform and reform in response to natural processes…and they can naturally move up and down the shoreline rather than be overtopped” (Miller et. al., 2022). Therefore, soft shore options offer a degree of self-adaptation to changing sea levels. The figure below shows the contrasting ecosystem effects of a natural shoreline and an armored shoreline during predicted future tide levels otherwise known as “The Coastal Squeeze.”
Understanding Your Resources
The Shore Friendly Program offers free site visits to help shoreline property owners make informed decisions when it comes to preparing your property for future conditions. Additional assistance with design, permitting, and implementation of solutions is also available to qualified landowners through a cost-share program. Follow this link to sign up for a site visit today or visit our website to learn more.
The Shore Friendly Program also offers free educational workshops throughout the Northwest Straits Region. There are currently three workshops scheduled in Snohomish, Clallam, and Skagit counties with more being scheduled. The current series of workshops will cover the drivers and impacts of coastal erosion, how sea level rise can intensify coastal erosion, and strategies and adaptations to prepare for future conditions. Interested shoreline homeowners can sign up at nwstraitsfoundation.org.
Miller, I., Faghin, N., and Fishman, S. 2022. Sea Level Rise and Management Options for Washington’s shorelines. A collaboration of Washington Sea Grant and the Washington Department of Ecology. Prepared for the Washington Coastal Resilience Project.