Shoreline Armoring
Shoreline armoring affects more than a quarter of all the shoreline around Puget Sound.
Indicator Leads: Doris Small, Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife,
and Hugh Shipman, Washington State Department of Ecology
Data last updated on June 27, 2017
Photo Credit: Hugh Shipman

Importance to Puget Sound recovery

Puget Sound’s 2,500 miles of shoreline are among the most valuable and fragile of our natural resources. A dynamic area where land and marine ecosystems meet, the shoreline is constantly changing with the action of wind, waves, tides, and erosion.

These same shaping forces are also the reason why people often build bulkheads or other structures to harden the shoreline. Indeed, more than 25% of the shoreline has been armored to protect public and private property, ports and marinas, roads and railways, and other uses.

Shoreline armoring, the practice of constructing bulkheads (also known as seawalls) and rock revetments, disrupts the natural process of erosion, which supplies much of the sand and gravel that forms and maintains our beaches. Erosion also creates habitat for herring, surf smelt, salmon, and many other species in Puget Sound. Over time, shoreline armoring may cause once sandy beaches to become rocky and sediment starved, making them inhospitable to many of our native species.

What you can do

  1. Minimize shoreline alterations to preserve natural shoreline conditions.
  2. Talk to a representative in your local city or county planning office about local laws and regulations and the potential impact on habitat, if you are considering building any structures aimed at preventing erosion on shoreline properties.
  3. Consider using soft shore techniques such as large wood or gravel berms to provide wave protection, planting native vegetation and installing adequate drainage to stabilize slopes. You can get ideas in the Marine Shoreline Design Guide

What our partners are doing

View Near Term Actions helping to advance this Vital Sign

Links for more information

Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife:  Protecting Nearshore Habitat and Functions in Puget Sound

Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife:  Marine Beach Spawning Fish Ecology

Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project

Department of Ecology's Puget Sound Shorelines

Department of Ecology's Shoreline armoring fact sheet: Healthy shorelines equal a healthy Puget Sound

Department of Ecology's Shoreline armoring fact sheet: Marine Shoreline Armoring and Puget Sound

Department of Ecology's Feeder Bluff Mapping project

Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife: Marine Shoreline Design Guidelines