OCEAN SHORES – A plan to remove old jetty rock from the Damon Point area for salmon enhancement as part of the federal project to shore up the South Jetty across the Harbor has come under fire from Ocean Shores officials concerned the work might further erode the shoreline on the southern tip of the city.
The proposal by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is part of an overall plan to build a 500-foot jetty extension into Half Moon Bay in Westport to solve an ongoing erosion problem steadily worsening since the early 1990s.
If something isn’t done to the South Jetty, “continued erosion of the breach area will widen the gap between the South Jetty and the shoreline, and a permanent secondary channel to the ocean may be created through the remains of Half Moon Bay,” the Corps warns.
Ocean Shores Mayor Crystal Dingler, several other city officials and citizens from the North Jetty area have questioned a part of the proposal that would remove some of the old jetty rocks on the other side of the Harbor.
“We don’t know what the result of this will be and we don’t want to take a chance,” Dingler said.
The Ocean Shores City Council on Tuesday will present a resolution sponsored by Dingler that if approved would put the city officially on record as “objecting to the Army Corps of Engineers proposed plan to remove jetty rock from the relic North Jetty in order to mitigate the loss of salmon habitat” from the work to be done on the South Jetty.
Dingler noted the Corps report says riprap rock will be removed near the land connections at Point Brown and Damon Point. “This removal is expected to promote better water movement through the Oyehut Wildlife Recreation Area” and enhance the area for salmon, according to the Corps’ draft report, presented at a May 3 public meeting in Aberdeen.
“Construction of the 500-foot jetty extension will eliminate approximately two acres of shallow subtidal habitat,” the report says. “… However, this will be mitigated by the removal of 50 feet at each end of the remnant jetty located in the embayment at the Oyhut Wildlife Recreation Area near Damon Point on the north side of the inlet to Grays Harbor.”
Dingler said the plan would remove 100 feet of the existing old jetty rock down by Damon Point and the Wildlife Area.
“There is substantial erosion there already,” she said. “Although this is not Ocean Shores city property (some is Quinault-owned and some managed by the Department of Natural Resources), such a change could cause erosion until it is at our door and beyond.”
C. J. Klocow, project manager for the Corps of Engineers, doesn’t believe removing some of the old rock will add to any of the beach erosion issues along Damon Point on the Ocean Shores side of the Harbor.
“It’s being done to provide salmon mobility through that area,” he said. “We have looked at the impact and the potential for erosion, including sediment transport through that area, and from our perspective it’s not a significant risk.”
Klocow, however, said the comments from the Ocean Shores contingent have caused the Corps to look at the issue once again. The comments also will be added to the final proposal’s appendix along with documented responses.
“We do intend to look at it again, and if initial analysis is required then we can go ahead and do that,” Klocow said.
Corps coastal engineers believe that wave action at high tide already is well over the top of the old jetty, which is the “real factor in erosion, not the infiltration through the jetty necessarily,” Klocow said.
The older “relic” jetty is at least 50 years old, and Klocow said it could be as much as 100 years old.
“It’s been there for a long time, and it’s in pretty bad repair,” he said. “It’s not intended to be an erosion-control feature out there. It was made as a railroad grade and it has degraded over time.”
Taking a look at erosion control off Damon Point would be a separate project to the one being proposed for the south jetty, he said.
The Corps, he added, looked at a number of environmental mitigation projects that could be done as part of the south jetty work, but found the one off Damon Point to be best suited for salmon enhancement and most beneficial to “that large habitat area that they haven’t had access to for years.”
“That really does a lot in our eyes,” Klocow said.
The primary concern behind the overall project is the loss of sediment at the main entrance to the Harbor and the major damage a jetty breach would have on the city of Westport.
“The persistent loss of sediment from the entrance to Grays Harbor (including North Beach and South Beach) is expected to continue indefinitely,” according to the summary of the Corps’ report on the project. “The Corps has identified a problem of shoreline erosion in the vicinity of the South Jetty, which could again result in the breaching of the land mass adjacent to the jetty.”
The South Jetty project, Klocow said, is “a critical project. That jetty is at risk and this is the best project we can come up with.”
“It’s absolutely essential that this gets done from our point of view,” said Westport Mayor Michael Bruce.
Randy Lewis, Westport city administrator, noted the initial breach responsible for the problem occurred in 1993. It was at the corner of the South Jetty where he said the strongest waves and wind patterns come in from the southwest.
A revetment was extended to help secure the marina side of the jetty.
“There was a real fear of it actually coming through the bay and eroding the beach line on that side, which was right adjacent to our sewer plant and really all of the buildings, infrastructure and businesses in the marina,” Lewis said.
The latest plan is to build essentially a mound at the South Jetty to “defract the wave patterns and the way they attack the beach and help anchor in that area,” Lewis said. The shaping of the mound will be intended to affect the angle at which a wave hits the beach and how high the wave is.
“Waves hitting head on, straight into a beach normally don’t do nearly as much damage as waves cutting across the face of a beach, so the idea behind the mound is to change the wave patterns,” Lewis explained.
He also noted that the old South Jetty rock targeted for removal is “really rock that right now is under water” during every high tide, but added he didn’t want to comment about whether the mitigation proposed was good or not.
“We’ll leave that to the Corps and to Ocean Shores to work that out,” he said.
Westport officials don’t want to see any further delays after 19 years of trying to find a more permanent fix for the South Jetty and erosion getting worse year by year.
“They have been putting sand out there every couple of years to try to keep up with it because the gravel is gone and now the sand is starting to erode rapidly,” Lewis said. “They are basically out of sand in their stockpile, which means they have to buy sand and there will be less sand. The benefit of this project is that they estimate they won’t have to place sand more than once every 10 years or so.”
The original spit off the South Jetty, Lewis added, has now shrunk from 350-400 feet across from the ocean to the bay to about 100-120 feet, according to Lewis.
“One of the frustrating things about the whole federal system with the Corps is that process takes so long,” Lewis said. “They were directed in 1993 to come up with a long-term strategy. We’re now 19 years later and they have finally identified it. But identifying it does not mean there is any funding for it.”
The earliest that funding might be available for engineering is 2014 and construction funding will not be available until 2015 at the earliest.
“We’re still three years out and hanging on to see this thing happen,” Lewis said. “If it begins to breach, that’s disaster.”
Dingler doesn’t dispute the work that is needed on the Westport jetty and said she fully supports the overall intent of that project.
“The plan on their side makes good sense,” she said. It’s only the mitigation portion the city would like to reverse. “It’s how they are going about it that concerns us. It’s one of the things you learn after a little while out here — that any change that is made has sort of unknown or unintended consequences.”
She noted the city doesn’t actually own any of the property onshore where the jetty rock will be removed.
“But there are three houses that are slated to be built on that same area or behind there,” she said. “It’s very vulnerable to the storm waves.”
She believes the rocks do help to break the strength and force of the waves.
“I’m no oceanographer or whatever, but I can see that,” she said.
The city, Dingler noted, previously has discussed its concerns about erosion in the area and the over-topping of the north jetty with the Corps.
“They didn’t mention this (the South Jetty mitigation) at all then, which was kind of a surprise to us,” she said.
Dingler added she would like the Corps to show it has studied and modeled how the removal of the rock on the north side would affect erosion, similar to the studies that have gone into the solution for the South Jetty.
“At the public meeting, they gave evidence of no evidence whatsoever,” she said.
Comments can still be submitted on the jetty proposal through June 16.
Written comments can be submitted to: C.J. Klocow, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District, Environmental Resources Section, P.O. Box 3755, Seattle, WA 98124-3755 or via email email@example.com. For more information on the project online, visit www.nws.usace.army.mil.