State of the Beach/State Reports/WA/Beach Fill

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State, Territory, and Commonwealth Beach Nourishment Programs, A National Overview (NOAA, March 2000) provides the following information:

"The state has no policy regarding beach nourishment. Only one beach nourishment project has been done along the Pacific Ocean coastline. However, there are eroded areas along the Puget Sound and within the Strait of Juan de Fuca where small nourishment projects have been performed. The Washington Shoreline Management Guidebook (1994), does have a section entitled Beach Restoration and Enhancement that addresses aspects of smaller nourishment projects.

Policy Citation and Description

The Washington Shoreline Management Guidebook (1994), does have a section entitled Beach Restoration and Enhancement that addresses aspects of smaller nourishment projects.

Related Policies

  • Note: Shorelands Guidelines undergoing revision in mid-1999.

Near Shore Sand Mining Regulations

Wash. Admin. Code §173-16-060(6). Washington Shoreline Management Act Guidelines. Use Activities - Mining: Local governments should strictly control or prohibit the removal of sand and gravel from marine beaches. When authorized, removal should be conducted in the least sensitive biophysical areas with adequate protection against siltation and erosion.

Dredge and Fill Regulations

Wash. Admin. Code §173-16-060(16). Washington Shoreline Management Act Guidelines. Use Activities - Dredging: Dredging should be controlled in order to minimize damage to existing ecological values and natural resources to both the area to be dredged and the area for deposit of dredged materials. Single purpose dredging to obtain fill material shall be discouraged.

Sand Scraping/Dune Reshaping Regulations

Of the 5 local jurisdictions with beach and dune shorelines, 4 prohibit primary dune grading and 1 permits it with limits.

Public Access Regulations

Wash. Admin. Code §173-16-040(3)(b). All Master Programs must contain a public access element for assessing the need for providing public access to shoreline areas. Washington Shoreline Management Act Guidelines. Washington Coastal Zone Management Program seeks to increase public access to publicly owned areas of the shore. However, in order to protect the resources and ecology of the shorelines, the state may restrict or prohibit public access onto areas which cannot be maintained in a natural condition under human use.

Beach Nourishment Funding Program

Washington does not have a state funding program for beach nourishment."

WDOE states that beach fill is not common in Washington due to: (1) an absence of the kind of widespread beach erosion found in many other states, (2) a relatively small portion of state's coasts being broad, sandy beaches, and (3) the lack of inexpensive, readily available fill material.[1]

Beach fill is permitted under the general authorities of the Hydraulics Code (RCW 77.55.100 — 360) administered by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Shoreline Management Act (RCW 90.58), with the permit issued by the local government subject to review by WDOE. The state provides limited financial assistance for public projects and technical assistance on coastal geology for both public and private projects. Public projects are carried out primarily by local governments, often with technical and financial assistance from the state and federal levels of government. The state can potentially monitor beach fill projects for environmental protection purposes, if required by the permit conditions, although this has not occurred to date. WDOE defines successful beach fill projects as those that result in little or no adverse environmental effects and unsuccessful projects as those that result in substantive adverse environmental effects while meeting the project proponent's goals for shoreline stabilization.[2]

The 2006 Assessment notes that erosion affects many recreational beaches and shoreline parks, impacting public resources and reducing the quality of public access. Traditional armoring does little to restore the beach or enhance the public experience. Beach fill may address these issues well, but guidance to engineers, local planners, and regulators remains scarce for the small gravel beach projects typical of the Puget Sound.

The Washington Coastal Zone Management Program (WCZMP) is involved in several sediment management efforts including the Dredge Material Management Program (DMMP) and Columbia River Disposal Program. The DMMP, a cooperative led by the Department of Natural Resources which includes EPA, USACE, and Ecology manages disposal within Puget Sound, Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay. In addition to the DMMP, the WCZMP has been working with the State of Oregon, USACE, and other partners through the Lower Columbia Solutions Group since 2005 to develop beneficial use disposal options in Oregon and Washington.

After the initial Columbia River jetties were constructed, the shoreline grew seaward rapidly but with dams upriver trapping much of the sediment, the shoreline has been eroding since the 1950s. Cape Disappointment State Park has lost over 260 acres of land, and beachside areas once targeted for campground construction have been removed from the planning process and sewer ponds have been decommissioned because of the threat of erosion.

The WCZMP has worked closely with the USACE and other partners and led the effort to secure funding for a pilot project where dredged sediment from the Columbia River is being placed on Benson Beach. The movement of sand and impacts on nearshore ecosystems are being closely monitored. WCZMP staff have also provided additional support to sediment management efforts, for example, assisting with the development of a workshop focused on wave hazard and navigation safety and developing an agreement on how these issues would be handled in the permitting of a new nearshore disposal site.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Sediment Evaluation Framework manual (2009) provides a regional framework for the assessment, characterization, and management (disposal) of sediments in the Pacific Northwest to determine suitability for unconfined in-water disposal. This document addresses the development of a comprehensive evaluation framework governing sediment sampling, testing, and test interpretation for determining the potential risk of dredged material (freshwater and marine sediments), as well as evaluating the suitability of alternative management options. The goal of this manual is to provide the technical and regulatory basis for publicly acceptable guidelines governing environmentally safe assessment and characterization of sediments, thereby improving consistency and predictability in dredged material/sediment management.


A description of beach fill projects in Puget Sound can be found in Beach Nourishment on Puget Sound: A review of Existing Projects and Potential Applications (Shipman, 2001). Several beach fill projects are also described in Alternative Bank Protection Methods for Puget Sound Shorelines.

In 2005, the City of Burien and the Corps of Engineers restored over one thousand feet of shoreline by removing the seawall and historic fill, nourishing the beach with sand and gravel, and planting vegetation. This improved numerous ecological functions, including the connection between the upland forest and the beach, the gradual delivery of sediment to the beach through erosion, and the potential for forage fish to spawn on the upper beach.

The Washington Department of Ecology reports the southwest coast is largely accretional, therefore there has been little need to employ beach fill. The beach at Westport was nourished after the jetty breach in the early 1990s and again in 2002. Fill was done in conjunction with an engineering project in Willapa Bay in 1999. Small gravel beach fill projects have been carried out in the Puget Sound.

In 1998, the Surfrider Foundation took legal action against the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) when the agency introduced a plan to place a rock wall along the entire beach of Half Moon Bay in Westport, Washington. Surfrider Foundation recognized that this misguided plan to armor Half Moon Bay would have destroyed the entire beach in the Bay, eliminating beach walking and surfing — which in recent years has become a source of critical income to the tourist economy of Westport.

The suit had been brought before the Pollution Control Hearings Board by the Surfrider Foundation to challenge Ecology's failure to extract a long-term commitment to beach fill from the Corps. Regular beach fill is critical to assure that erosion does not degrade the beach and expose the rock revetment, thereby destroying surfing and other recreational uses in Half Moon Bay as well as the revetment itself, requiring expensive and ineffective re-armoring of the shoreline at a future time.

In the summer of 1999, a settlement was reached between the Surfrider Foundation and the Corps relating to the revetment extension in Half Moon Bay. Perhaps the biggest victory for Surfrider Foundation, beachgoers, and the citizens of Washington State is that the Corps abandoned its plan to place a rock wall along the entire beach of Half Moon Bay.

Additionally, the settlement required the Corps to strengthen its commitment to beach fill in Half Moon Bay, making it more likely that future surfers and other beachcombers could continue to enjoy the Bay. The settlement made long-term beach fill a component of the Corps' commitment to preserve natural sandy beaches.

However, the Corps has not met its obligation to maintain the beach. Recent events in Half Moon Bay have significantly eroded the beach and have dramatically impacted recreational and environmental resources in the area. Additionally, the wave refraction mound built at the end of the South Jetty at Half Moon Bay designed by the Corps Waterway Experiment Station and Pacific International Engineering seems to be dramatically increasing the erosion immediately adjacent to its construction, making the likelihood of a breach in the South Jetty — as occurred in 1996 — imminent. The wave refraction mound has failed to meet its intended purposes to "refract" wave energy away from the beach.[3] In January 2009 the Corps developed a presentation discussing alternatives for dealing with erosion at this location and in March 2012 published a Draft Letter Report and Integrated Environmental Assessment.

Information on beach fill in Washington is also available through Western Carolina University's Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines. State-by-state information is available from the pull-down menu or by clicking on a state on the map on this page.

In 2017 the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) announced a new online National Beach Nourishment Database – featuring data on projects comprised of nearly 1.5 billion cubic yards of sand placed in nearly 400 projects covering the continental U.S. coastline. In addition to the total volume and the number of projects, the database includes the number of nourishment events, the oldest project, the newest project, the known total cost, the total volume and the known length. The information is broken into both state statistics and those of local or regional projects. Every coastal continental state is included (so Alaska and Hawaii are still being compiled), and projects along the Great Lakes are similarly waiting to be added.

A report National Assessment of Beach Nourishment Requirements Associated with Accelerated Sea Level Rise (Leatherman, 1989) on EPA's Climate Change Impacts and Adapting to Climate Change websites notes that the cumulative cost of sand replenishment to protect Washington's coast from a 50 to 200 cm rise in sea level by 2100 is estimated at $143 to $794 million.

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.

State, Territory, and Commonwealth Beach Nourishment Programs: A National Overview (2000) is a report NOAA/OCRM that provides an overview of the problem of beach erosion, various means of addressing this problem, and discusses issues regarding the use of beach nourishment. Section 2 of the report provides an overview of state, territorial, and commonwealth coastal management policies regarding beach nourishment and attendant funding programs. Appendix B provides individual summaries of 33 beach nourishment programs and policies.


Southwest Washington Coast
George Kaminsky
Phone: (360) 407-6797

Puget Sound
Hugh Shipman
Phone: (425) 649-7095


  1. Doug Canning, WDOE. Surfrider 2003 State of the Beach survey response.
  2. Doug Canning, WDOE. Surfrider 2003 State of the Beach survey response.
  3. Kevin Ranker, Pacific Northwest Report, Surfrider Foundation Making Waves V18(1):6-7.

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