Feeder bluffs are a defining component of our Salish Sea. CWI has been working for decades to understand, protect, and restore these beautiful foundations of our region. While more information can be found in our 2015 blog http://www.coastalwatershedinstitute.org/blog/?p=169, here are a few key elements: Feeder bluffs are 150-300 foot tall coastal cliffs left behind when the glaciers retreated from of our region 15,000 years ago; Feeder bluffs are an uncohesive mix of sand, rock and clays that naturally erode as a result of wind, rain and waves; providing the sand and gravel that forms many of the beaches in our region.
A Bit of BackgroundHuman interactions with beaver in coastal North America date back for centuries at a minimum. Native tribes in the northern US and Canada utilized the beaver for meat, fashioned their teeth into tools such as chisels, and used fur as material for clothing. Eurasian citizens sought beavers for their prized furs, used principally in hat making—and ate both the flesh and the tail, which was considered a delicacy. Castoreum was also highly prized by both cultures. Utilized for its medicinal use and as an additive in foods and perfumes (creating a ‘leathery’ or ‘vanilla’ smell), castoreum is what the beaver uses to scent-mark its territory. It is an oily substance excreted from their castor sacs, which are located near the anal gland. It is often secreted along with the animal’s urine. (Rue 2002) Today, you can even buy whiskey that is made with these secretions. (Tamworth Distilling) Yum! By the end of the 15th century, the Eurasian beaver Castor fiber had been hunted and trapped to near extinction, and as a consequence, the quest for beaver products shifted to North America at that time. By the early 17th century, the North American beaver Castor canadensis fur trade was booming for the Eurasian settlers and ‘entrepreneurs’. Over the next two hundred plus years, C. canadensis followed the same fortune as the Eurasian beaver; trapped and hunted to near extinction. It is guestimated that there were up to 400 million beavers before the American fur trade boom (Goldfarb 2018). Currently, the North American population has risen again to around 10-15 million, due to help of protections placed on them in the late 19th/early 20th centuries (NWF).
Overview of Beavers in the NearshoreC. canadensis are a keystone species in the nearshore estuarine environment, meaning that they have effects on both the community structure and the environmental function of local habitat. Without their presence, a broad array of other animal and plant populations depending on their services would suffer direly. As “ecosystem engineers” beaver construct dams that serve to increase or create productive marshland habitat. This marshland not only amplifies the beavers’ area for their foraging activities, but also increases the amount and diversity of resident organisms. In the nearshore environment, this function is accompanied by a shift in the saltwater-freshwater balance of an area. The beaver dams entrap tidal waters from being released as a low tide exits the coastline, creating a valuable niche estuarine habitat. Beaver ponds are also heavily utilized by the resident fish species of an area, which in the Elwha nearshore include salmon species, but also fish such as three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus), prickly sculpin (Cottus asper), and Western river lamprey (Lampetra ayresii). The captured water and reduced flow rates of beaver ponds also acts to retain sediment and organic matter within the marsh. Subsequent decomposition creates a nutrient rich environment, facilitating an increase in riparian vegetation and surrounding shrubbery. This vegetation may overhang the habitat, decreasing evaporative water losses and regulates water temperatures against warming in the sun. Oncorhynchus (salmon) species require cooler water temperatures, which hold more oxygen, to survive. Resident fish also rely on these shrubs as cover to safeguard themselves against predator species in the area such as great blue herons. Another ecosystem benefit offered by beavers is the excavation of foraging channels throughout their ponds. This movement of sediment acts as a dredging mechanism to increase water depth within their ponds. The area and perimeters of the estuary and side-channel habitat are also significantly expanded: in a study by Hood and Larson on an inland ecosystem in south-central Alberta, it was found that the digging of foraging trails by C. canadensis increased wetland perimeters by over 575%, and the volume-to-surface area ratio (adding depth) by 50%, in comparison to similar areas where beavers were not present (2014). Additional area and depth protects the estuarine environment from drying up during summertime droughts, and offers the landscape increased heterogeneity, further facilitating the rise in biological diversity.
Anthropogenic Interactions and Local ConsiderationsBeavers are still under threat from humans. Though hunting pressure on our coastal beavers has greatly decreased, people bringing along their dogs into the coastal environment has arisen as a new stress for the critters to navigate. Beavers can be chased, injured or even killed by unconfined dogs, and diseases are transferable between the animals as well. Beavers mate for life, and typically live around 10 years-in rare cases 15 years. They reside in a small colony, which consists of two adult parents, a couple “yearlings” (teenager equivalents) who learn building techniques from the parents, and the “kits” or baby beavers. In our own Place Road habitat near the western Elwha delta, the frequency of domestic dogs to the nearshore ecosystem has also dramatically increased. Unfortunately and not coincidentally, one of the beavers was recently found freshly dead in the middle of the main walkway to the Elwha west delta-with clear and sad signs of drag and struggle around it. The death of one beaver may not seem like a catastrophic event, but because of their colony structure, this death tears the whole working familial unit apart. Based upon dramatic regrowth of vegetation along the shoreline, and rapid filling of the west estuary side channels, and lack of new activity, indications are that the recent beaver death has caused the colony to vacate the area directly adjacent to the Place Road dike. If beavers do not return to the area, the ecosystem will alter over time; connectivity will be reduced, dredging of the side channel will not be maintained, and sediment may infill the most critical west side channel of the Elwha delta. (The landowners that provide access to the west side of the Elwha delta are clear: dog leashes are now REQUIRED the Place Road dike AND beach. Please use them and remain in control of your pets. A split second mistake can be costly to the entire ecosystem balance. Also, please pick up dog waste, which can spread disease to wildlife, and alter water quality. If this conservation directive isn’t adhered to, dogs will be banned from the site.)
The western portion of the Elwha River estuary, including the beaver lodge and pond (center), the Place road dike (left), the Elwha River main channel (far left) and the Strait of Juan de Fuca (right). Photo view is from the north, looking toward the south. (Photo by Coastal Watershed Institute, 2018)
What Else Should We Know?To our knowledge, there are no studies yet investigating the relationship or reliance of C. canadensis on abundance and availability of soft, fine sediments. However, it is well understood that beavers build their burrows and structures using fine sediment. Once Glines Canyon and Elwha dams were removed on the Elwha River in 2012-14, the approximately 21 million cubic meters of fine sediment locked behind the dams began a journey downriver, half of which is predicted to the nearshore ( Warrick et al 2015; Shaffer et. al 2017). Before these removals, was it a challenge for C. canadensis to live on sediment-starved beaches? It stands to reason that this sediment delivery would benefit the beavers’ habitat immensely, providing them with one of the essential materials they require to build with. Unfortunately, there has been no research yet conducted on the impacts of dam removal and sediment delivery, specific to the nearshore, for the beavers. In the future, as we see other large man-made dams with projected removals, understanding the benefits or obstacles C. canadensis faces throughout restoration process is necessary. We know beavers reside in and have an impact on the nearshore—the entrance gate to our critical rivers.
Remaining evidence of C. canadensis residence of the Elwha nearshore. (Photo by Breyanna Waldsmith)
SynopsisLocated on the north Olympic Peninsula along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, approximately 25 miles west of Port Angeles Washington, the Twins Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration project implements an innovative decades long collaborative project that will result in restoration of over 14 acres of nearshore habitat, including extensive eelgrass beds and surf smelt spawning beaches.
Twins Nearshore Overview
The Twin’s nearshore drift cell includes approximately four linear miles of rocky and sandy shoreline. The shoreline is highly erosional. Parks (2005) concluded that there is no long-term net apparent sediment transport direction, but rather a high degree of inter-annual variability between east/west/ and north offshore across the shore platform, and that sediment transport may be impacted by shoreline modifications. The shoreline of the Twins nearshore is a mixture of private and state ownership. A significant portion of the Twins shoreline is owned and managed by Lafarge.
Overview of the Twins Mole and QuarryThe mole is a pier structure associated with the inactive Lafarge Twin Rivers Clay Quarry, a 214-acre quarry site located immediately west of the west Twin Rivers. Elevation of the quarry ranges from 226 feet above mean sea level to mean high water. The quarry loading facility is a filled pier structure (locally termed a ‘mole’) that occupies intertidal area directly north of the quarry .The pier (or mole) structure begins at mean high water and extends northward 250 to 300 feet into the intertidal zone to below mean low water. Elevation of the mole structure ranges from 33.2 feet to –2.2 feet below mean low water (Parks 2005). In total the mole is approximately 5.6 acres and made up of approximately 83,000 cy of fill, 20,000 cy of riprap and 425 linear feet of sheet and creosote treated piles. The structure was installed on state tidelands in the mid-1960s and operated as a clay mine during the mid-1980s by private landowners including Leonard Pfaff and Bud Schmidt. The site was first built during the early 1960’s. Operation included the dredging of the east side to allow barge access for loading purposes. Dredging records suggest that 102,000 cubic yards (77,994 m3) of sediment were removed from the access channel between 1982 and 1985 (Parks 2005; WDOE, 1982).
Twins Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project
Todd et al. 2006 describes the Twins nearshore as a moderately impaired stream delta complex. The mole is the feature that is impairing the shoreline by disrupting sediment transport along the shoreline and disconnecting upland sediment sources from the shoreline. Once removed the ecosystem forming processes of the region will be largely restored.
The project removed the armoring around the perimeter of a 5.6 acre earthen filled pier (also called a ‘mole’) to allow natural processes to restore over 14 acres of nearshore habitat. Approximately 30,000 cubic yards of riprap (non-native rock armor) concrete and sheet pile were removed. Removing these armoring features is allowing clean native sediment that makes up the fill of the mole to naturally erode and replenish the local shoreline. After fourteen years of planning and funding pursuit, armor removal began 24 July 2017 and concluded 31 August 2017. Rock armor removed from tidelands is stored on the upland portion of the Lafarge owned property.
For more information on the Twins nearshore ecosystem restoration project see:Parks, D. 2005. Preliminary assessment of sediment transport processes resulting from decommissioning of the Twin River clay quarry loading facility, Clallam County, WDNR, Port Angeles, WA. Penttila,D. 1999. Documented spawning areas of the pacific herring, surf smelt, and sand lance, in Clallam County, Washington. WDFW technical report, Olympia, Washington. Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project. (PSNERP) 2011. Nearshore Restoration Strategy for Twin Rivers. Strategic Restoration Conceptual Engineering‐Design Report. USACE, Seattle, WA and WDFW, Olympia, WA. Roni, P. R. Holland, T. Bennett, G. Pess and R. Moses. 2008. Straits intensively monitored watershed contract report: results of FY07 PIT tagging on east and west Twin rivers. Northwest Fisheries Science Center, NMFS, Seattle, Washington 98112. Shaffer, JA.2004. Nearshore mapping of the Strait of Juan de Fuca: II. Preferential use of nearshore kelp habitats by juvenile salmon and forage In T.W. Droscher and D.A. Fraser (eds). Proceedings of the 2003 Georgia Basin/Puget Sound Research Conference. CD-ROM or Online. Available: http://www.psat.wa.gov/03_proceedings/start.html Shaffer, JA. Moriarty R, Sikes J and Penttila D 2003. Nearshore Habitat Mapping of the Central and Western Strait of Juan de Fuca Phase 2: Final Report to Clallam County Washington. Shaffer JA, Paul J, Crain P, McHenry, M., Jensen, P, Whitey, T. Parksand Schouten A, 2009. Nearshore restoration strategy for Twin Rivers: A revised proposal by the Twins nearshore restoration work group (2004, revised 2009). Port Angeles, WA. www.coastalwatershedinstitute.org. Shaffer JA and Ritchie T. 2008. Chapter 4. Fish use of the Twins nearshore. In ‘Nearshore assessment of the central Strait of Juan de Fuca. http://hwsconnect.ekosystem.us/project.aspx?sid=180&id=10977&stat=on Smith, Carol. 1999. Limiting factors analysis WRIA 20. Washington Conservation Commission, Olympia, Washington Todd, S., Fitzpatrick, N., Carter-Mortimer, A. and Weller, C., 2006. Historical changes to estuaries, spits, and associated tidal wetland habitats in the Hood Canal and Strait of Juan de Fuca regions of Washington State.Final Report. Point No Point Treaty Council Technical Report, pp.06-1. Water Resource Inventory Area 19 (Lyre-Hoko) Salmonid Recovery Plan. Clallam County, WA.
Source: Morejohn et al. 1978
The recent 15-year absence of L. opalescens is not the first. They were reportedly absent from Puget Sound waters for about a decade in the early 1950s, only to return in considerable numbers in 1958 (Fields 1965). Little is known about these disappearances and the impact they have had on the food web.
Is this cyclic population boom and bust natural, or a result of a disrupted ecosystem? What triggers their absence and return? How did the food web respond to their absence? What role does this fluctuation play in our struggling marine ecosystems? How does this affect other species in the region?
Important questions we hope we can help answer.
Squid Reproductive Cycle
Researchers do know a fair amount about the lifecycle of L. opalescens, however. L. opalescens have four life stages: eggs, paralarvae, juveniles, and adults.
Eggs are encapsulated in a sheath made of many layers of protein, and coated with bacteria, which likely helps prevent fungal infections. Female squid deposit the eggs in sandy bottom substrates, at depths between 10-50 m. The egg capsules are anchored in place with a sticky substance that allows them to be continually aerated without being swept away. Masses of egg capsules are laid together into an egg bed. If the spawning event is large enough, egg beds can cover acres of ocean floor. (Zeidberg 2016)
Paralarvae hatch from their eggs after 3-5 weeks of incubation. At just 2-3 mm long, they must learn to swim and hunt immediately. At this stage, they feed on copepods and other plankton. (Zeidberg 2016)
L. opalescens are considered juveniles when they grow strong enough to swim and hunt in groups, or shoals. This typically occurs when they reach a mantle length of ~15 mm, (at approximately 2 months). As juveniles, they search for food in shoals of approximately ten individuals, and begin to hunt larger prey (as listed above) with the use of their tentacles. They perform a daily vertical migration, swimming to depths pf 500 m during the day, only to return to the surface each night to feed. (Zeidberg 2016)
L. opalescens are considered adults when their sexual organs mature, between 4-8 months of age. As adults, their average mantle length is 19 cm for males and 17 cm for females. Like other squid, L. opalescens have chromatophores in their skin, which are pigment-bearing cells that can change color in order to confuse predators, attract mates, and communicate with others. (Armstrong et al. 2012; Zeidberg 2016)
L. opalescens are mass spawners, with numbers of individuals sometimes reaching into the millions. Shoals of squid move to shallow water to spawn. It is during these mass spawning events that they are most vulnerable to predation. They are known to breed throughout the year, and it has been shown that the presence of egg sacs in an area will stimulate other females to lay eggs. Female squid lay between 100-300 eggs. (Morejohn et al. 1978; Zeidberg 2016).
Squid and Elwha Nearshore Restoration
Squid egg masses were found along the Elwha beach wrack line for the first time in October 2016. The CWI crew have been keeping a qualitative count since then.
Will the Elwha nearshore restoration result in more squid? We don’t know.
As a key player in our region’s marine food web, it’s exciting to witness what may to be a return of L. opalescens to the Elwha system. We encourage and look forward to more work to understanding this fascinating and mysterious component of our nearshore ecosystem.
Armstrong, M.; H. Buchanan and J. Davidson. 2012. (Online), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 07, 2016 at http://animaldiversity.org/accounts//
Fields WG. 1965. The structure, development, food relations, reproduction and life history of squid, Loligo opalescens Berry. Calif Dep Fish Game Fish Bull 131:1–108.
Morejohn GV, Harvey JT, Krasnow LT. 1978. The importance of Loligo opalescens in the food web of marine vertebrates in Monterey Bay, California. Calif Dep Fish Game Fish Bull 169:67–98.
Quinn, Thomas P. The Behavior and Ecology of Pacific Salmon and Trout. Bethesda: American Fisheries Society, 2005: 269-270.
Zeidberg, L. 1995-2016. “The Cephalopod Page” (Online). Loligo opalescens, California Market squid. Accessed November 6, 2016 at www.thecephalopodpage.org/Lopal.php.
Whats Dam Removal Got to Do With It ?
The removal of the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams began in September 2011. In the above 2015 photo, you can see the dramatic expansion of the Elwha River delta (~100 acres of new estuary habitat) and a yellow line indicating the location of the failed armoring that was littered throughout the historic Beach Lake nearshore. Not only was this abandoned armor no longer serving a functional purpose, it was impairing habitat for salmon and forage fish, in addition to interfering with sediment and wood delivery and other natural beach forming processes. It had all come full circle for this armor. First, it was put there to prevent erosion that occurred because of the dams, but after 70 years, we learned that it was not successful at preventing erosion and it was actually interfering with the beach’s ability to mend itself once the removal of the dams delivered a 100-year pulse of sediment to this shoreline.
Comparing the above 1950 and 2016 photos of this shoreline, you can see a dramatic shift from a sandy vegetated natural beach to a heavily altered beach that was littered with abandoned armor rock up to 6 feet in diameter.
In 2015, at the 9th Annual Elwha Nearshore Consortium workshop, Jamie Michel ( CWI nearshore biologist and project lead), initiated and led an interdisciplinary dialog that identified, for the first time, the direct relationship between shoreline armoring and the persistent erosion on this stretch of Elwha shoreline. And the first ecosystem restoration project of the Elwha nearshore was born. Coastal Watershed Institute approached the owner of a portion of this shoreline about their interest in a conservation sale of their property so that this stretch of shoreline could be restored to a natural beach and made available for the public to visit. The landowner was very supportive of this concept as were the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Washington State Department of Ecology, Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) and the Puget Sound Partnership. Puget Sound Partnership designated this project, named the Beach Lake Acquisition and Restoration Project, their #1 Habitat Priority in their 2016 Puget Sound Action Agenda which is available here. In August of 2016, Coastal Watershed Institute purchased this property with funds from USFWS and RCO and immediately began the process of bringing this shoreline back to its full potential. All of this happened just in time, as the beach forming sediments made available by dam removal will only be in this stretch of shoreline for a short duration as the high wind and wave energy quickly moves sediment along this shoreline. If we had waited any longer, we may not have had the chance to allow this beach to rebuild itself naturally.
Elwha Nearshore Rising
Within just one tidal cycle, natural processes were able to deliver beach forming material (sand and wood) to the upper portions of the beach and some areas of the beach grew upwards by almost 10 feet and outwards by 20 feet. Pretty amazing how capable a natural system is of repairing itself once we get the impediments out of the way.
Dr Anne Shaffer, lead scientist at CWI, leads the monitoring efforts underway on the project.
Over 2016-2018, the project beach continued to evolve as high energy winter storms and king tides rearranged the shoreline. Portions of the newly deposited sediment were whisked away, but were just as quickly replaced by newly accumulated large woody debris (LWD). In the years when this shoreline was heavily armored, the LWD just bounced off of the armoring and was not delivered to the upper beach. LWD is a key structural component that helps create beach stability and we are excited to see that this habitat-sustaining and beach-forming feature has been naturally re-integrated into this ½ mile of shoreline as a result of dam removal and shoreline armor removal. Along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, it is common for beaches to erode in the winter and then rebuild with beach forming material delivered by alongshore transport and summer swell. The ability of a beach to retain the summer delivery of beach forming material through winter storms is greatly enhanced by the presence of LWD which helps to lattice the beach together. In the photo below, you will see that the old ‘sentinel’ snag that was an eagle perch and photo reference point has fallen over, but is now one of many new pieces of LWD on the beach.
Something else we have noticed is the re-emergence of shoreline armor that was buried within the beach last August when we conducted Phase I of armor removal. Because of the decades long legacy of failed armor attempts, we knew that this was likely to happen as buried armor ‘swam to the surface’, so the project was permitted to allow armor removal from the beach as it surfaced from 2016-2021. In 2016 we removed ~3,000 cubic yards of abandoned armor from the shoreline (~150 dump truck loads) of the estimated 8,000 cubic yards that were a part of the failed armor structure that was littered on top of and within the beach.
What Happens Next?
The upland restoration of the property is mostly complete and the site is ready for public visitation. We continue to monitor the shoreline for newly emerged armor, beach change, forage fish spawning, beach wrack, beach invertebrates and LWD. So far we have mobilized heavy equipment 14 times and have removed approximately 80% of the armor that was estimated to be littered on 2 acres of tidelands along ½ mile of the project area shoreline. Check back for more updates as they happen.
-by Jamie Michel, Project Lead
Following complete removal of the last dam from the Elwha River it appears that the nearshore food webs have begun to repair themselves. During a recent lower river and estuary seining, the Coastal Watershed Institute (CWI) documented, for the first time, hundreds of gravid and spent eulachon Thaleichthys pacificus- a federally listed river spawning smelt (watch a video of the field observation here).
While spawning is low in the Elwha drift cell, it’s common to seasonally see extremely large schools of adult and juvenile sand lance (Ammodytes hexapterus), surf smelt, and herring (Clupea harengus pallasi) migrating along our shorelines and feeding in the kelp and eelgrass beds of the Elwha and Dungeness nearshore (see sand lance and herring in our nearshore here: http://vimeo.com/106125199 and video of a recent juvenile herring storm in the Elwha nearshore here: http://vimeo.com/104661826) . It is so important to protect these nearshore habitats critical for these important forage fish species.
In July 2014, Coastal Watershed Institute and a group of young National Geographic Explorers documented that surf smelt (Hypomesus pretiosus pretiosus) expanded their spawning range in the Elwha nearshore and spawned on new beaches that were created as a result of dam removal. You can read about our July sampling here. We continue to sample for new spawning areas for surf smelt and sand lance and other forage fish as they arrive. Stay tuned.
What science tells us/What we know:
1. High bluffs are complex, unique nearshore systems
The feed rate of sediment from feeder bluffs is very complex. Feed volume, rate, and composition, varies by season and year.
2. These high bluff features are fundamentally erosional-this process is unstoppable.
3. Their management is also unique. Including:
- Foremost, ‘soft techniques’ becoming more familiar in other areas of lower energy regions of Puget Sound are not effective on high feeder bluff shorelines. Specifically,
- Parcel scale ‘soft armoring techniques’ won’t work on high bluffs. Sediment delivery and wood dynamics are simply too large and complicated to attempt to mimic at a parcel scale. Only restoration of sediment processes at the ecosystem scale may restore and maintain feeder bluff systems.
- Native vegetation along the top and face of high feeder bluffs plays a very important role in high feeder bluff dynamics-including erosion. Once native vegetation is removed and surface hydrodynamics are altered, erosion will start to accelerate. Once activated, this fundamental shift in the dynamics of the feeder bluff may be difficult to undo.
- Restoring’ native vegetation is a fine thing to do-but restoring the root systems that pull adequate water, reestablish angle of repose on destabilized bluff faces, and provide a stabilizing net along the bluff edge and face may take decades-and may not be possible at all.
What to do?
First and foremost: Undeveloped bluff properties should be conserved.
For properties that are developed:
New homes should be sited at least 200 feet back from the top of the bluff edge (providing approximately 100+ years of time until erosion becomes an issue). Erosion rates are too variable and development actions have too much interaction with bluff dynamics to develop closer with any certainty.
Native long lived vegetation provides important bluff edge stabilization that cleared edges and mowed lawns do not. Native vegetation should absolutely not be cleared from the bluff edge and face. Trees should not be topped, and yard waste should absolutely not be side cast onto/over bluff edges.
Careful consideration should be given to storm water and septic systems as additional water storage and runoff often exacerbates bluff erosion. If these cannot be managed to completely avoid increased interaction with the bluff system the site should not be developed.
While often offered as a popular engineering tool, armoring of high bluffs is expensive and the science is clear: armoring of high bluffs doesn’t stop erosion but instead increases it. Armoring just won’t solve the problem and leads to intractable and additional landowner costs as well as devastating effects to fish and wildlife. Look to the Elwha drift cell to understand that armoring is expensive, does not solve the problem and results in more armoring.
What can we do? Educate, and work together.
- Continued community education on best bluff management practices
- Develop and coordinate a relief funding source, process, and plan for acquisition of distressed properties and relocation of homes away from the bluff edge.
- Begin protecting intact feeder bluffs-your favorite beach, fish, and marine ecosystem depends on it.
Link to average erosion rates by parcel along Dungeness and Elwha drift cell: http://www.arcgis.com/home/webmap/viewer.html?webmap=89f3c6777a554d01808d26b9b5856cc5&extent=-123.6961,47.9973,-123.0273,48.2599
The Last Beach; https://www.dukeupress.edu/The-Last-Beach/
Thanks to LightHawk for assistance with aerial imagery
The industrial waterline conveying water from the Elwha river to city of Port Angeles mills was unwisely installed on the Elwha bluffs shoreline in the 1920's. The landfill is burning on the bluff in the background.
Over the next 100 years sediment starvation due to shoreline armoring associated with the industrial waterline and in river dams transitioned the Elwha nearshore from a intact beach and bluff system to a severely sediment starved and hostile ecosystem. Surf smelt spawning extent along the Elwha bluffs compared to intact Dungeness bluffs illustrates the impact of this sediment starvation.
In 2006 the City of Port Angeles installed a sea wall in front of the landfill. The seawall has a band-aid. It slowed garbage from falling into the Strait, but also exacerbated shoreline erosion. The sea wall quickly began to deteriorate, and require costly maintenance, now underway. The sea wall was not permitted federally.
Dam removals offer over 100 years of river sediment, approximately 16 million cubic meters, to the Elwha nearshore. This could reverse sediment starvation in the Elwha nearshore, and reset the Elwha nearshore on a new trajectory.
In 2013, with new city leadership and staff, the City of Port Angeles began efforts to solve the landfill problem. With funding from DoE they are in the first phase of removing landfill from the bluff shoreline.
CWI and the City hosted a meeting with NOAA, WDFW, and DNR management on 12 August 2014 to update agencies on the status of the landfill project and top priority next steps for Elwha nearshore restoration that have been identified by the Elwha Nearshore Consortium over the last decade.
We still have a lot to do-we need to do it now.