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Clearing activities and construction can lead to landslides or slumping. Runoff from hillside excavations, road cuts, compacted soil, fills, roofs, and paved areas can destabilize slopes.

Clearing a site can lead to slides.

  • Before Clearing, Plan For Your Land.

    Plan how you will protect plants, soils, and slopes during and after construction. Check with your county planning office for information about your site. Get a geologist to check your site for potential slide hazards.

    Keep Clearing To A Minimum

    Keep as much native vegetation and soil as possible. Even small areas of shrubs, groundcovers and trees can absorb large amounts of water and can help reduce erosion.

    Tree, shrub, and groundcover roots help strengthen a slope.

  • Don't Clear To The Edge.

    Avoid clearing to the edge of slopes, bluffs, or the water. Leave an undisturbed buffer of vegetation between the homesite and the water.

  • Keep and Protect Trees.

    While tree-felling may generate some quick cash, those trees are more valuable for preventing expensive erosion problems over the years.

    Keep heavy machinery away from trees. A temporary fence can help protect trees from bark wounds and root disturbance. Do not bury roots when grading. Even a foot of fill over root zones can cause large evergreen trees to die.

  • Keep Heavy Equipment in Limited Areas.

    Heavy equipment can compact soil, leading to increased runoff. Cleared soil can be stripped of fertility and water holding ability. Limit heavy equipment to essential areas only.

    Recycle Debris

  • Don't Dump Debris Over The Edge.

    Never dump debris over the edge of a slope or allow your heavy equipment operator to do so. Stumps and clearing debris can cause slope damage, smother important vegetation, and make access difficult in the future.

    Consider chipping your woody debris. The chips can be used on rustic walkways and as free mulching material to discourage weeds.

    Keep rocks, dead trees, logs, stumps, and brush piles. Decaying plant matter helps build your soil, thus preventing erosion. Dead trees provide homes for birds and other wildlife. Rocks can be used in a wide range of landscaping projects (edging paths and patios, for example.)

    Reduce Paved Areas

    Each square foot of non-porous paved area adds more runoff that will make its way down a slope, causing erosion. Some alternatives: for paths, use bark chips, sawdust, or sand. For driveways and patios, use paving stones or gravel.

    Reduce Roof Size

    Consider constructing a home with a smaller roof size: A multi-story bungalow for example, rather than a sprawling ranch style home will reduce runoff from your roof.

    Keep Big Changes To A Minimum

    • Build your home in harmony with your land. Keep the natural contours and vegetation of your site. Big changes with heavy equipment means more runoff, more destruction of wildlife habitat, and more potential erosion and slides.
    • Quick and careless clearing can lead to expensive erosion problems. Wise planning and careful construction will improve property values, reduce maintenance costs, and contribute to slope stability.

    Related Links

    Controlling Erosion Using Vegetation, Department of Ecology. An online guide to controlling erosion on slopes and bluffs using vegetation.

    Managing Drainage On Coastal Bluffs, Department Of Ecology Careful management of site drainage is the most cost-effective approach to minimizing bluff hazards.

    Online Permit Assistance, Governor's Office
    Online permit information and guidance.

    Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA), Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Why does the Department of Fish and Wildlife care if you work near the water? Answers to frequently asked questions about shoreline construction and HPA approval.  

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    Comments? E-mail: Shellyne Grisham