For a variety of reasons, humans are deeply attached to and highly value accretionary shoreforms, i.e. sand and gravel beaches, spits, and other low-angle, non-rocky shoreline features. These have also been referred to as “drift babies” because they are products of drifting sediment and, in geologic terms, they can never grow old.
Ediz Hook, which forms Port Angeles Harbor and is occupied by industrial facilities and a Coast Guard station, provides an excellent case history on the effects of reducing a drift cell’s sediment supply. There, bulkheading of the drift cell’s most active feeder bluffs in the 1920’s and 30’s contributed to sudden, catastrophic erosion of Ediz Hook. Since the 1950’s, many millions of dollars have been spent on wooden and then rip rap bulkheads, steel sheet pile, and beach nourishment to prevent Ediz Hook from eroding away. Every few years a major spit maintenance project is performed at the Hook.
Increasingly, resource managers recognize the importance of conserving sediment sources in drift cells, particularly where the drift cell includes an especially significant accretionary shoreform, such as Dungeness Spit. In some cases, land use regulations appear to ensure that feeder bluffs will be protected from human impacts. However, permit exemptions, grandfather clauses, conditional use permits, and other loopholes can render local, state, and federal shorelines regulations ineffectual at preventing shoreline armoring of these precious features.