A Case Against Shoreline Armoring

In an article published by Salish Sea Magazine, Herrera’s Andrea MacLennan discusses the impact of coastal erosion on homeowners and the changing perceptions of shoreline armor. Today, nearly 30% of Puget Sound shorelines are armored with seawalls and other protective structures to mitigate the impacts of rising tides and erosion. As development has increased along the Sound, the construction of shoreline armor also increased. Currently, half of all residential areas along the Puget Sound shoreline are armored.

Though shoreline armor aims to reduce bluff and beach erosion, recent studies indicate they are ineffective. Implementing these man-made barriers harm coastal ecosystems by destroying the habitats of native species. As awareness has increased, many shoreline homeowners have removed armor on their property due to concerns over habitat loss.

Despite these efforts, sea level rise is also an increasing concern for property owners. As waves and tides become higher due to climate change, bulkheads may weaken, causing erosion. In addition, the location and large size of these homes make them difficult to move away from the water or create more resilient shorelines. According to Andrea, this is leading many property owners to sell their homes.

Andrea continues to work with numerous Puget Sound shoreline homeowners to find tailored, practical solutions to remove their shoreline armoring. As more bulkheads are replaced by natural shorelines, shoreline processes are improved, benefiting homeowners and native habitats. Looking to the future, Andrea is optimistic that this is the beginning of a larger movement. “The more people see shorelines without armor, the more they will understand that they don’t need it.”