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If you haven't built on the land yet, site your home as far back from the water as possible. This will help prevent erosion concerns.

Exposed bluff at West Beach, Whidbey Island, Island County.

Learn About Your Land

  • Check county maps for information about your shoreline, especially about the potential for flooding and erosion.
  • Consider hiring a geologist to provide a site-specific assessment of site stability and erosion potential.
  • Join a neighborhood group or volunteer with a stewardship group where you can learn more about the shoreline.

Know The Risks

  • Where Does Your Property Lie?

    Where your home and land is located will make a big difference in how you the experience the Sound. Life on a high bluff with a sweeping view of the Sound is very different from that on a low bank or rocky shore, where the water's not far from your door.

  • Bluffs Can Slide - Sometimes Suddenly

    Bluffs are products of thousands of years of erosion. Many bluffs are still eroding slowly and the sand that comes from those bluffs nourishes nearby beaches. Some bluffs can be hit by landslides and other major erosion events that can be unsettling and are sometimes dangerous to waterfront dwellers.

  • Low Banks Can Flood

    Low banks provide easy beach access and are generally associated with sandy beaches or mud flats. The materials that make sand spits and beaches come directly from eroding bluffs or possibly from a river mouth nearby. Houses on low banks may be more subject to wind and wave damage, flooding and sometimes severe erosion. Mud beaches usually indicate a more sheltered area where wind and waves are not a problem, but flooding may still occur.

  • Rocky Shores Can Be Stable.

    Rocky shores are made of bedrock and boulders too large to be moved by waves. These shores contain some of the richest habitats in Puget Sound, supporting an array of marine life. This environment generally has no erosion problems.

    Play It Safe: Set Your Home Back

    • Avoid trouble and stay out of harms way. Locate your home as far back as from the water or bluff edge as possible. Resist the urge to trade safety for an improved view. Consider local setback requirements absolute minimums.
    • Leave as much native vegetation as possible including an undisturbed buffer at the top of bluffs.

    Related Links

    Beach Watchers - Island County, Washington State University. Trained volunteers dedicated to protecting and preserving the fragile environment of Island County & Puget Sound waters through education and public awareness.

    Beach Assessment Program - King County, Department of Natural Resources. Data collected by volunteers provides valuable information about the marine life on King County beaches.

    Central Puget Sound Watershed - King County, King County. Includes those areas draining into small creeks that flow directly into Puget Sound, and includes Vashon Island.

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    Comments? E-mail: Shellyne Grisham