Collaborative restoration project improves local beach for people and fish

A barge arrived on Brown Island in a recent downpour to unload heavy equipment and the removal of a large rock bulkhead along three adjacent residential waterfront properties was finally underway.

“It all started a few years ago when I saw a newsletter from Friends of the San Juans on armoring and how it can degrade the beach, which was a huge shock to me. That’s when we decided to see what we could do to improve our beach” noted Mariluz Villa, one of the participating property owners.

The armor removal project, coordinated by FRIENDS of the San Juans, will unbury the upper beach, providing more usable space for property owners as well as the wildlife such as forage fish and juvenile salmon that depend on intact shoreline habitats. “In San Juan County, there are hundreds of unnecessary structures like this one, placed in areas with low natural erosion rates. Hard structures not only have direct habitat impacts but also interrupt or change the actual processes that are essential to maintaining our beaches” said Jim Johannessen, Principal at Coastal Geologic Services and the restoration project designer.

Over the next week local contractor Carson Sprenger and his Orcas Island based team at Rain Shadow Consulting will remove 175 cubic yards of rock from the project site, working carefully to retain existing trees and shrubs. Following bulkhead removal, the upper beach will be nourished with sand and small gravel. Native plants including dune grass, Nootka rose, ocean spray and snowberry will be planted by Barry Bartmasser of Naturescapes Landscaping, a San Juan Island based firm. Project funding has been provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Puget Sound Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program, participating property owners and FRIENDS members.

“People come from all over the world to visit or stay in San Juan County. They have an expectation that they will be able to see orca whales, fish for salmon, and view seabirds and the scenic coastlines. By working with landowners, agencies, tribes and other partners on habitat restoration, Friends of the San Juans is helping to solve a problem that can help ensure the long term health of our environment and our economy. It takes all of us working together.” said Stephanie Buffum, FRIENDS Executive Director.

For more information on FRIENDS beach restoration actions or what you can do to help protect shorelines for people and nature, please visit our website at or contact us directly at 360-378-2319.


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