'Friends' receives funding for shoreline, sea level study

Funding from the National Estuary Program will enable the Friends of the San Juans to study threats shoreline habitat, private property and public infrastructure rising sea levels, and cumulative impacts of shoreline modifications in the San Juans County.

Results of the study, which will include new erosion rates, maps and sea-level rise models, as well as ways to reduce risks, is expected to be applicable throughout Puget Sound.

According to Friends, shoreline modification poses one of the most significant risks to the long-term health of the nearshore ecosystems, which include habitat of the Southern resident orcas, marbled murrelet seabirds, Stellar sea lions and chinook salmon. More than 20 miles of beaches have been armored by roads and by residential and commercial bulkheads in San Juan County, and nearly one-third of the 2,500-mile Puget Sound Basin is also "armored", with more miles of shoreline being hardened each year.

If the trend continues, Friends science director Tina Whitman anticipates beaches will become more vulnerable to climate change they shrink or become fully submerged. Beaches play an important role in marine food chain, providing critical habitat for spawning fish, which in turn become prey for seabirds, salmon, ling cod and marine mammals.

“It’s really important to start asking the tough questions about which special places for fish, wildlife and people are going to suffer increased flooding," Friends science director Tina Whitman said in a press release about the NEP funding. "Without this basic information, we can’t move forward as a community to figure out how to reduce the risk through modified development techniques or locations.”

Friends will complete its shoreline protection project with assistance of Bellingham-based Coastal Geologic Services, and a technical team of local and regional experts.

For more information on shoreline habitat and sea-level rise, contact Friends at 378-2319 or visit





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