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Over the past several thousand years, sand transported out of the Columbia River resulted in slow rates of net beach accretion. This accretion developed the wide sandy beaches that make up the modern Columbia River littoral cell coast. From a historical perspective (past 100 years), the littoral cell is known for being highly accretionary with shoreline progradation rates often exceeding 5 m/yr (16.4 ft/yr). High rates of net shoreline advance has afforded development opportunities in locations that were offshore less than a century ago.

Historically, coastal management issues in the region have focused primarily on drifting and accreting dunes that limited public beach access and interrupted property owner views of the coast. While advantageous for the growth and economic development of coastal communities, the relatively few societal problems posed by such conditions limited the level of scientific research or management focus within the region. As a result, coastal development proceeded unchecked for several decades with limited consideration of future coastal conditions.

This picture of the Long Beach Peninsula shows a homeowner response to accreted dunes that limit ocean views. Dune grading and the elimination of beach grass may increase a property's susceptibility to dune overwash and flooding.

In the past, the primary economic resources in the region were timber and fishing. Declining productivity of the natural system along with increased environmental legislation has resulted in a reliance on significant economic contributions from tourism and related development. The recent upsurge in economic development activities throughout the littoral cell marks the beginning of a transition from self-reliant coastal communities to tourist destinations complete with hotels, casinos, condominiums, and the commercial capacity to support a rapidly developing part-time population. In light of these recent development trends, previously undeveloped areas are experiencing growth at unprecedented rates.



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Ecology - SEA Program | USGS - Coastal & Marine Geology

This is http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/sea/swces/overview/background.htm
Maintained by CMAP, Washington Department of Ecology
Address questions and comments to George Kaminsky
Modified 22 Mar 2012