Feeder Bluff Outreach and Armor Removal (Island and Jefferson counties)

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The proposed project development effort addresses sediment supply degradation to shoreline process units in Island and East Jefferson Counties by identifying and prioritizing feasible armor removal projects at historical feeder bluffs (sediment source bluffs), implementing outreach and education to high priority sites to achieve landowner willingness to participate in restoration activities. The final phase is focused on restoration design, once landowner willingness has been achieved. The project employs a three-phase approach to achieve a list of ‘ready to proceed’ feeder bluff restoration projects. This effort meets one of the broad PSNERP objectives by identifying projects that will restore the size and quality of beaches and bluffs.

Feeder bluff with armoring and no apparent structure being protected

The primary objective of the Feeder Bluff and Armor Removal Assessment project was to build a prioritized list of private and publicly-owned armor removal projects that were feasible and would benefit down-drift shoreforms and habitat.

The project was a targeted development strategy, informed by both sound science and landowner values and concerns, to identify priority projects and build landowner willingness. Private land owners do not typically view armor removal as an acceptable option and consistently identify ‘erosion’ as their main concern (CGS landowner needs assessment 2010, NWSF landowner needs assessment 2012). Without educational opportunities and/or incentives, landowners are unaware of alternatives and their benefits. Shoreline armor embodies many contradictory aspects of human relationships with nature, as it is often perceived as benefiting human well-being despite negatively affecting ecosystem goods and services (Leschine 2010). Landowner outreach and education, along with clear incentives for positive action, were used to pursue armor removal on privately owned land. The messaging and content of this project’s targeted outreach reflected the values and concerns identified in landowner needs assessment surveys conducted in priority areas and removal would not be recommended at sites where structures would be at risk without armor.

The project consisted of three phases of work: Phase One was a technical geospatial analysis performed by Coastal Geologic Services (CGS) that entailed identifying parcels in which armor removal would be feasible and have a high benefit. Feasibility was assessed by measuring long-term bluff recession from a sample of unarmored shores with variable fetch and bluff geology from throughout the study area. Structure setback distances were calculated and a safety buffer was applied to determine which parcels were amenable to armor removal (without resulting in threatened structures). The relative benefit of armor removal was assessed largely using existing data sets including feeder bluff mapping, drift cell analysis, forage fish spawning areas, and parcel data.Feasible, high-benefit parcels were then sorted by landowner type (public, commercial, or private) and linked with ownership information to inform outreach efforts.

Phase Two implemented a targeted outreach program to private landowners in high priority areas to increase awareness of coastal processes, encourage the consideration of alternatives to hard shore armor, and attain landowner willingness for armor removal. Several workshops were held to engage private landowners and perform direct outreach to managers of public lands to provide education on coastal processes and shoreline armor impacts. Free technical site visits offered to landowners gave a site-specific assessment and gauged feasibility based on a combination of factors: structure and septic setback distances; bluff recession rates; and armor removal benefit (location w/in drift cell; proximity to forage fish spawning habitat; proximity to pocket estuaries and natal streams, etc.). This phase was led by the Northwest Straits Foundation and was accomplished in collaboration with the Island and Jefferson Marine Resources Committees (MRCs), the Jefferson and Whidbey Camano Land Trusts, and Coastal Geologic Services (see Figure 1).

Project workflow.

Figure 1. Project Workflow.

Phase Three forwarded the site assessments to permit-level designs for those properties where removal was feasible and landowner willingness was obtained. Four projects were identified that would restore sediment supply to shoreline process units through the removal of the shoreline armor: Maylor to Forbes Points on Whidbey Island, Island County; Seahorse Siesta on southeast Whidbey Island, Island County; Beckett Point in northeastern Discovery Bay, Jefferson County; and the Waterman site on southeast Whidbey Island, Island County. Northwest Straits provided the landowner coordination and Coastal Geologic Services completed the designs. Companion funds from Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife and Natural Resources also allowed for the start of the permitting process and work towards implementation of the projects.

The goals of this project were well-aligned with PSNERP beach restoration strategies that aim to restore the ecosystem processes that most strongly control coastal structure and services by proactively focusing resources on the development of projects at high priority sites, rather than using limited resources to implement unprioritized, opportunistic projects.

For the final report, please read the Feeder Bluff Restoration Assessment for Island and East Jefferson Counties provided by Coastal Geologic Services. The report was prepared by Andrea MacLennan, Jim Johannessen, Branden Rishel, Alison Lubeck and Lisa Kaufman.