With funding from the Honda Marine Science Foundation, Whidbey Island, Washington removes shoreline armor to restore ecology

With funding from The Honda Marine Science Foundation and other public and private entities, the Northwest Straits Foundation (NWSF), Sunlight Shores Country Club and Island County Marine Resources Committee (an all-volunteer group), partnered in a coastal resilience project.

The initiative restored 350 linear feet of shoreline, adjacent salt marsh and backshore habitat on Whidbey Island, Washington. The project’s completion was announced on August 6, 2019.

This project was identified and developed through the NWSF Shoreline Armor Removal Program and Island County’s Shore Friendly project.

Key objectives included: restore the shore and adjacent nearshore habitat to benefit juvenile Pacific salmon; improve beach habitat for spawning surf smelt and Pacific sand lance – two species that are critical food sources for salmon, marine birds, and essential to the recovery of Southern Resident Killer Whales; restore natural coastal processes with an eye to climate change and sea level rise; and improve beach access for community members.

Extensive (ongoing) educational outreach to the Sunlight Shores community has proven instrumental. Although a majority of the community association board was in favor of restoration, a handful of property owners perceived that a gain in beach (and loss in lawn) might reduce property values. There was considerable hearty discussion and compromise on the height of newly planted vegetation, and location of new trees.

The project was designed to restore the nearshore ecosystem through the removal of shoreline armoring (creosoted logs, boulders, concrete rubble), beach regrading to a natural profile (slope), and vegetation enhancement. We removed approximately 747 cubic yards of shoreline armor and debris, uncovering 11,294 square feet of beach, salt marsh, and backshore habitat. Much of the native vegetation planted as part of the project has already become established, helping to stabilize the new bank and improve water filtration. One member of the community has since enthusiastically taken on the role of caring for new vegetation and rallying other volunteers.

Another individual has been doing drone photography monitoring change at the project site. The community has agreed to allow use of this site for demonstration by the Northwest Straits Foundation in our continuing shoreline restoration efforts around the region. The drone videos are included in this ArcGIS story map created by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Island County’s Shore Friendly program created a video for shoreline property owners with interviews of local residents and a coastal geologist sharing the environmental, recreational, and aesthetic benefits of natural and restored beaches. Sunlight Shores was featured in the video.

Watch full video.

See Honda Marine Science Foundation website.

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