Background: During the past several thousand years, the beaches of the Columbia River littoral cell have been accumulating sediment delivered by the Columbia River. Past coastal management issues revolved around accreting dunes restricting homeowner views and limiting public beach access. Over the past decade, however, coastal erosion crises, a lack of scientific information to support decision making, and a growing concern over rapidly changing coastal conditions have redirected coastal management issues and motivated the initiation of the Southwest Washington Coastal Erosion Study in 1996.
Goals & Objectives: Study goals and objectives focus on predicting management scale coastal change (tens of kilometers and decades) and providing coastal communities with decision support tools for integrating scientific research with coastal decision making and long-term land use planning efforts.
Study Approach: The Study is jointly sponsored by the Washington Department of Ecology, Shorelands and Environmental Assistance Program and the US Geological Survey Coastal and Marine Geology Program, with active participation of the local communities. Based on a recognition of the need to provide information to resolve coastal planning issues at appropriate temporal and spatial scales (tens of kilometers and decades), the Study is directed towards assembling a body of knowledge to help support decision-making today and reduce coastal hazard impacts in the future.
Findings: Nearly five years of research have led to an improved understanding of how the littoral cell has changed over time. Jetty construction, wave conditions, sediment budget characteristics and the influence of El Niño on the movement of sand are all factors that play a role in shaping the morphology and dynamics of the littoral cell.
Participants: The Study team includes the Department of Ecology Coastal Monitoring & Analysis Program, the US Geological Survey Coastal and Marine Geology Program, and University collaborators. Individual research topics and contact information are included for each of the Principal Investigators.
Regional Setting: The Columbia River littoral cell extends 165 km between Tillamook Head, OR and Point Grenville, WA. The region features sandy beaches that have built out over the past several thousand years from sediment dispersed from the Columbia River. The regional setting presents physical, social and economic portraits of coastal communities in the littoral cell.