State of Our Watersheds: Riprap Hurts Hoh

Shoreline armoring in both fresh and saltwater is one of the most pervasive and growing problems facing salmon populations in our region. Armoring techniques like riprapping – adding rocks to riverbanks to prevent erosion – cut salmon off from vital habitat.

According to the recently released State of Our Watersheds Report by the treaty tribes in western Washington, the riprapping on the Hoh River has gotten worse.

From the report:

The mainstem Hoh River has over 3.7 miles of riprap between River Mile 1 and 37. Since 2012, there have been at least four new riprap projects as well as extensions and modifications to existing ones. There is no indication that any riprap was removed.

At least one riprap project on the Hoh was done surreptitiously in order to avoid a fish-protecting permit. Again, from the report:

In the lower Hoh River, wood was placed on a layering of rocks used for riprap on the riverbank. At another site, to protect the lower Oil City Road being threatened by the Hoh River, Jefferson County placed riprap on the road’s right of way to avoid getting an emergency Hydraulic Project Approval to do in-channel work. The intention behind the project was that as the river eroded the bank, the riprap would fall into place on the riverbank to stop it from further eroding. That riprap was insufficient to protect the road. The county eventually obtained an emergency hydraulic permit and brought in additional riprap and heavy equipment to protect the section of road being threatened.