Natural berms more beneficial than bulkheads

SEQUIM (January 17, 2007) – After extremely high winter tides damaged waterfront properties north of Sequim, along the Strait of Juan de Fuca last February, the property owners knew they needed to do something fast.

But rather than build a large rock wall to protect their properties, the 15 property owners decided to do something that would be beneficial to both them and the environment.

“Being where we live, we care about the environment and what we’re doing here,” said John Lewis, president of the Beach Property Owners Association.

After consulting with Sequim biologist Dave Shreffler, Jay Petersen with 4 Seasons Engineering of Port Angeles, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and other state and local agencies, the property owners decided to construct a natural berm along the 1,500-foot shoreline.

Approximately forty 40-foot long logs, donated by the tribe, were trucked to the site and buried, along with existing driftwood and trees with attached rootwads, under 1,700 cubic yards of gravel and sand to enhance the existing natural berm. Native plants, such as Nootka rose and dune grass, were planted to stabilize the berm. The construction took about three weeks in October and November.

The natural berm protects developed areas from flooding while benefiting the shoreline ecosystem, which is home to eelgrass, clams, forage fish and birds, said Byron Rot, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s habitat program manager.

Soft bank shoreline restoration is a technique local habitat biologists strongly encourage. Property owners often resort to rock or concrete bulkheads to protect their property and beaches from wave action damage. However, bulkheads are ecologically harmful to the beach and extremely costly, Shreffler said.

A bulkhead shoring up a section of beach tends to make it “harder”. That means soft sand is eroded, leaving behind large rocks and cobblestones, eliminating habitat for species, such as sand lance, surf smelt and herring.

“A natural berm maintains the type of habitat that the animals have adapted to, as opposed to bulkheads,” Shreffler said. “To their credit, these property owners didn’t want to build a bulkhead – they wanted to enhance their level of protection while maintaining the beach as naturally as possible.”

In addition to Shreffler, the tribe and 4 Season Engineering, Clallam County, Department of Ecology, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Washington Sea Grant all contributed to the project.


For more information, contact: Byron Rot, Jamestown Habitat Program manager, at (360) 681-4615 or [email protected]; Dave Shreffler, project consultant, at (360) 582-1712 or [email protected]; or Tiffany Royal, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission information officer, at (360) 297-6546 or [email protected].