Shaw Island project restores beach to natural state - Salish Current
March 1, 2024
Shaw Island project restores beach to natural state
Elise Cope

The Island Conservation Corps helped plant 1,500 dune grass plants and more than 50 native shrubs as a natural erosion buffer and habitat at the Broken Point Restoration Project on Shaw Island, spearheaded by Friends of the San Juans. (FSJ)

March 1, 2024
Shaw Island project restores beach to natural state
Elise Cope

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A comprehensive restoration project to return a beach to its natural state was successfully completed in November 2023 on Shaw Island.

Situated on the western edge of Broken Point, this revitalized beach is rejoining a vast network of healthy shorelines that support forage fish, salmon and, ultimately, the Southern Resident killer whales.

The Broken Point Restoration Project, spearheaded by Friends of the San Juans and landowner Corinne Storey involved the full removal and proper disposal of a 225-foot-long creosote-wood retaining wall along with more than 50 dump truckloads of unnatural rock and dirt fill. Creosote is toxic to people, fish and wildlife.

With the help of the Island Conservation Corps, 1,500 dune grass plants and over 50 native shrubs were planted as a natural erosion buffer and habitat. An outbuilding and garden fence were moved back, away from marine waters to improve resiliency at the shoreline site.

The Broken Point restoration project began when Storey contacted Friends of the San Juans with concerns about her beach. 

The Broken Point Restoration Project, spearheaded by Friends of the San Juans and landowner Corinne Storey involved the full removal and proper disposal of a 225-foot-long toxic creosote wood retaining wall along with more than 50 dump truckloads of unnatural rock and dirt fill. (FSJ)

“Friends of the San Juans is such a dedicated team, passionate about preserving the region’s natural splendor,” she said after the project was completed. “They successfully removed the deteriorating bulkhead wall, which previously obstructed beach access. Now a naturally sloped beach runs the length of my property.”

Local contractor Shaw Island Excavation was hired to construct the beach restoration project and was guided by engineering coastal geologists from Natural Systems Design and archeologists from Caldera Archeology.

Funding for the project came from the Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board and Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program, the landowner and Friends supporters.

Katherine Dietzman, science and education coordinator at Friends of the San Juans, helped manage the project. 

“With over 400 miles of marine shoreline, the San Juans are critical for the vitality of our shared marine food web that supports present and historical tribal cultures and lifeways, as well as our local island communities,” she said. “The opportunity to remove this toxic structure and restore a beach was a big win for people and nature.”

Shorelines in the Salish Sea bioregion are part of a beautiful, complex, dynamic and increasingly fragile marine ecosystem that supports salmon, rockfish, seabirds, whales and humans. Over 90% of waterfront tax parcels in the San Juans are in private, residential ownership which means that a crucial aspect of shoreline protection involves empowering residents to be stewards of their environment.

Friends of the San Juans offers free technical assistance and provides waterfront property owners the opportunity to meet with highly qualified and experienced coastal geologists and shoreline biologists. Site visits with technical experts are available for those for those with structures (such as the one just removed at Broken Point) or without. These free consultations cover various aspects, including conditions, geology, erosion, flooding, vegetation and habitat.

Friends of the San Juans has completed site visits with more than 450 waterfront property owners since 2008, which has resulted in many positive actions taken to protect and restore shoreline habitats for people and nature. 

In the past 15 years, Friends of the San Juans has led nearly 20 shoreline habitat restoration projects in collaboration with private, public and tribal landowners. Friends is on track to restore beach habitat at four additional sites in San Juan County by 2025.

— Contributed by Elise Cope

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