State of the Beach/State Reports/OR/Shoreline Structures

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Through its ocean shore rules the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) administers a permit program for ocean shore alterations, including the construction of shoreline structures. Beach front shoreline structures are only permitted to protect areas where development (development is defined in Statewide Planning Goal 18) existed January 1, 1977. If a shoreline structure is permitted, the state insists that visual impacts are minimized, coastal access is maintained, impacts on adjacent property are minimized and long-term costs are avoided.

Allowance for emergency permits are written into the state rules and regulations, however, where coastal armoring is not permitted under Statewide Planning Goal requirements, there are no exceptions – short of a Goal Exception or Amendment to Goal 18 which has never been attempted.

OCMP is currently working on a coast-wide inventory of property eligibility status for shoreline protective structures (SPS). For the first time, information will be compiled for Goal 18 SPS eligibility status on all oceanfront properties in a GIS database. This will fill a much needed information gap and enable coastal planners, both at the state and local level, to examine potential for future SPS development, areas of potential conflict, and areas where changes in policies or regulations might be appropriate to preserve pristine beach areas.

Policies involved include Statewide Planning Goal 17 and Goal 18.

Also applicable is Division 20 - Beach Construction/Alteration Standards, which requires the consideration of alternatives to coastal armoring, such as planned retreat or beach fill.

The Oregon Coastal Management Program monitors erosion response for beach and shorelands goal compliance. Local government permitting is also often required.

According to ORS 390.655 Standards for improvement permits:

The State Parks and Recreation Department shall consider applications and issue permits under ORS 390.650 in accordance with standards designed to promote the public health, safety and welfare and carry out the policy of ORS 390.610, 390.620 to 390.676, 390.690 and 390.705 to 390.770. The standards shall be based on the following considerations, among others:
(1) The public need for healthful, safe, esthetic surroundings and conditions; the natural scenic, recreational and other resources of the area; and the present and prospective need for conservation and development of those resources.
(2) The physical characteristics or the changes in the physical characteristics of the area and suitability of the area for particular uses and improvements.
(3) The land uses, including public recreational use if any, and the improvements in the area, the trends in land uses and improvements, the density of development and the property values in the area.
(4) The need for recreation and other facilities and enterprises in the future development of the area and the need for access to particular sites in the area.
[1969 c.601 §11; 1979 c.186 §22]

Statewide Planning Goal 17 Implementation Requirement 5 states that:

Land-use management practices and non-structural solutions to problems of erosion and flooding shall be preferred to structural solutions. Where shown to be necessary, water and erosion control structures, such as jetties, bulkheads, seawalls, and similar protective structures; and fill, whether located in the waterways or on shorelands above ordinary high water mark, shall be designed to minimize adverse impacts on water currents, erosion, and accretion patterns.

Statewide Planning Goal 18 Implementation Requirement 5 states that:

Permits for beachfront protective structures shall be issued only where development existed on January 1, 1977. Local comprehensive plans shall identify areas where development existed on January 1, 1977. For the purposes of this requirement and Implementation Requirement 7 "development" means houses, commercial and industrial buildings, and vacant subdivision lots which are physically improved through of streets and provision of utilities to the lot and includes areas where an exception to (2) above has been approved. The criteria for review of all shore and beachfront protective structures shall provide that:
(a) visual impacts are minimized;
(b) necessary access to the beach is maintained;
(c) negative impacts on adjacent property are minimized; and
(d) long-term or recurring costs to the public are avoided.

The Beach Bill requires a permit for any improvement, defined as filling or removing material, or construction and/or maintenance of a shoreline structure, on ocean shore, defined as the land lying between extreme low tide of the Pacific Ocean and the statutory vegetation line (ORS 390.640 and OAR 736-020-0003).

"Soft armoring" (geotubes, sandbag revetments) is allowed on a temporary basis (typically limited to 1 month) when appropriate for certain site and hazard conditions. Other allowable erosion response options are cibbke berms and vegetation. The state has required the removal of shoreline structures when temporary or illegal structures were found not to meet permit requirements.[1]

Despite Oregon's relatively progressive regulations concerning shoreline armoring, there’s still work to do, particularly on those beaches where there are great resources worth preserving, and growing upland development pressures. This article from discusses threats to beaches caused by a growing number of shoreline armoring projects allowed by exemptions present in Planning Goal 18.

In April 2015 Meg Gardner, 2013-2015 NOAA Coastal Management Fellow, produced a report Analysis of Shoreline Armoring & Erosion Policies Along the Oregon Coast. The report analyzes and integrates current public policy regarding coastal erosion and shoreline armoring with the latest relevant geospatial and natural science information (including predicted impacts of climate change), in order to understand the most vulnerable coastal areas. Policy ideas are also explored, from changing statewide policy related to beachfront protective structure permitting and eligibility requirements, to adopting new local land-use policies to regulate development in coastal hazard zones. Although state policies are generally regarded as effective at regulating shoreline armoring equitably and broadly along the coast, there may be instances where local government policy changes or additions may be a more effective way to try to address some of the current policy challenges related to shoreline armoring and coastal erosion risks. Local efforts can be tailored to each jurisdiction and its unique geography and social context, and local efforts can be more restrictive than statewide policies. Several local policy ideas are explored in the Policy Ideas section of this report.


Oregon’s Coastal Management Program provided detailed information regarding shoreline protection structures. Approximately 6.1% (22 miles) of Oregon’s 362 mile shoreline is armored. The shoreline length armored in each county was also provided: 3.4 miles in Clatsop County (9%); 4.9 miles in Tillamook County (7.9%); 11.1 miles in Lincoln County (16.5%); 0.8 miles in Lane County; 0.1 miles in Coos County; 1.8 miles in Curry County . Sandbags are defined as a shoreline protection structure in Oregon. This information is available in a report done in 2004 by the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development and the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department called Updates to and Revision of the 2002 GIS Project “Erosion Control on Oregon’s Ocean Shore.”

In Neskowin on Oregon's north coast, virtually the entire length of the town (which is about 20 feet above sea level) is protected by riprap. Check out this video on Neskowin.

The extent of shoreline armoring in Oregon has been inventoried and compiled in a database and GIS. The database is currently being updated and improved. Oregon Parks and Recreation Department and OCMP store data on the extent of coastal armoring. The inventory is expected to be available in the future in the Oregon Coastal Atlas.

Coastal Program staff at the Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) are developing a new tool to help identify properties for which shoreline protection permit applications can be submitted. This will assist local planners and state agencies with decision making as well as long-range planning on Oregon’s beaches. To assist local planning departments, as well as other Coastal Management Program agencies involved in long-range planning for the ocean shore, the Oregon DLCD has created a GIS database of permit eligibility for individual oceanfront tax lots. Data input for two counties was completed as of Fall 2008. To build the tool, the DLCD developed a database table and form that contains the information necessary to make a determination. This includes the parcel ID, history of building subdivision, and infrastructure improvements, comments regarding aerial photo interpretation, and information from city and county planners. Using this information, a final determination was made on whether the property owner is or is not eligible to apply for a permit. Eligible properties are those where development existed in 1977. Eligible property owners may apply for a permit from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. When converted to a GIS shapefile, the determinations can be graphically displayed, and the form information can be accessed in an associated attribute table. In addition to city and county use, the GIS mapping also helps permitting agencies visualize potential build-out of shoreline protection structures to determine if policies need to be revised to protect certain beaches from being affected by future shoreline armoring. The maps also display potential conflicts for future permitting, for example, where eligible properties adjoin ineligible properties. GIS files have been distributed to the cities and counties, and the maps and information are also available on the Oregon Coastal Atlas. The maps and atlas allow for easy access to the information without the need for GIS software. Work on the remaining counties continues. To find out more about this project, contact Steve Williams.

A 2013-2015 NOAA Coastal Fellow will work on the following OPRD/DLCD Project:

Review Shoreline Protective Structure (SPS) inventory and compilation of up‐to‐date database
The fellow will transition to working more directly with OPRD and with the help of the OPRD mentor, staff and GIS specialists, will review the status of the outdated 2002 SPS inventory. A project team will be assembled to discuss and decide on a redesign of the data set, such that it meets the needs of all the relevant partner agencies going forward. Included in this effort will be a plan for keeping the dataset up to date into the future via online tools. Once a plan and schema are in place, the fellow will conduct a field inventory to confirm and improve the accuracy of known SPS, and collect data about new or missing SPS. This field information will form the basis of a modern living data resource for use by all parties concerned.
Outcomes: consensus of partner agencies on redesign of SPS inventory database; creation of new SPS inventory database from combination of field work and archival research; plan and process for continued maintenance of the database by OPRD staff.

Analysis of existing SPS and potential for coastal armoring
The fellow will conduct a geospatial and policy analysis that examines the newly collected SPS information and the newly confirmed SPS eligibility data in conjunction with recent scientific research (e.g., modeled erosion and/or sediment transport studies). The product will be a paper examining the extent and future potential for coastal armoring along the Oregon coast, along with an assessment of possible policy implications and or potential for mitigation of negative effects. An ancillary product might be a reference tool for local government decision makers that allows for information from all available sources to be examined in an online common operating picture framework.
Outcomes: analysis of extent and future potential for coastal armoring, with findings that relate to future permit and policy decisions; basic online SPS viewer tool incorporating multiagency data sources for use by local government planners.

The Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) is also currently involved in a long-term project to monitor the effectiveness and potential adverse impacts of a number of shore protection structures along the Oregon coast.

As noted above, the OPRD no longer issues permits for such structures for developments completed after 1977 or for lots platted since then.[2]

The Fiscal Year 2017 Civil Works Budget for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provides $4.62 billion in gross discretionary funding for the Civil Works program. This budget lists proposed projects and the associated budget justification by state.


Laren Woolley
Coastal Shores Specialist
Oregon Dept. of Land Conservation and Development
Ocean-Coastal Management Program
810 SW Alder Street, Suite B
Newport, Oregon 97365
Office: (541) 574-0811 | Cell: (541) 514-0091

Tony Stein
Coastal Coordinator
(541) 265-9871

Jonathan Allan
Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries
313 SW 2nd
Newport, OR 97365
Phone: (541) 574-6658

Perception of Effectiveness

Although Goal 18 prohibits new shoreline structures, many areas along the coast have been designated as 'developed' for the purposes of Goal 18 and are therefore eligible for shore protection. Further, although Goal 17 states a preference for alternatives to shoreline structures riprap remains the preferred actual response to dune and bluff erosion.

Public Education Program

Oregon utilizes books, signs, maps, and websites to educate the public about coastal erosion, beach fill, shoreline structures, and related issues. Three of the most important websites are:

Geologic Hazards on the Oregon Coast (DOGAMI)
DLCD's Natural Hazards minisite
DOGAMI Publications Center

The Oregon Coastal Management Program partnered with Oregon Sea Grant to create Living on the Edge, Building and Buying Property on the Oregon Coast. The 25-minute DVD is intended to influence the behavior of prospective coastal property buyers and builders by giving them a "reality check" on the unique risks that come with developing along the ocean shore, and explaining the steps that should be taken to avoid problems.


  1. Paul Klarin, OOCMP. Surfrider State of the Beach Survey response. November 2002.
  2. Beachhead Defense: Oregon Takes a New look at How It Governs Its Public Sands. The Register-Guard. November 17, 2002.

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