North Cove: the erosion of a coastal community

At the northern shore of Willapa Bay in southwest Washington lies the community of North Cove. Currently, there is a battle going on between the residents of North Cove and the erosion that threatens their homes. The satellite images below illustrate the degree of loss that has already taken place.

A time lapse of the North Cove from Google Earth between 1984 and 2016 can also be seen below.

As of 2016, 537 parcels totaling 2018 acres have eroded. That is more than 20 times the size of Vatican City. Estimates of the economic impacts to properties in the community are provided in the table below. The total value of properties lost is estimated to be between $14 million and $26.7 million, with an estimated average of $20.3 million.

While this is a significant loss, erosion continues to be a threat to the community. An additional 499 parcels totaling 547 acres are projected to erode by 2060. The areas at risk of erosion and their projected erosion date can be seen in the image below.

Source: Washington Department of Ecology. 2017. Understanding Washaway Beach: Assessment of coastal erosion and future projections. Forthcoming publication.

Source: Washington Department of Ecology. 2017. Understanding Washaway Beach: Assessment of coastal erosion and future projections. Forthcoming publication.

Up to this point, most of the parcels lost have been undeveloped land, with a total of 60 residential properties falling into the ocean, 33 of which were single-family residences. Looking ahead, the number of residential properties expected to erode totals 280, of which 213 are single-family residences.

The estimated future economic impact is $25.1 million to $34.8 million, with an estimated average of $30 million.

Most of the loss is expected to occur between 2030 and 2050, meaning that there is still time to prevent the largest losses if mitigation steps are taken soon.

Evaluation of the situation is ongoing, and this study provides an important piece of information to the process. It is important to identify the value of what’s at risk to justify the costs of any mitigation efforts. Representatives Brian Blake has sponsored a “Local Community Project” (LCP) to be funded in this upcoming state biennium budget, which would provide a down payment on proposed next steps towards permanent protection measures. As it stands, the future of the North Cove community is still uncertain.

This post was originally written for the Coastal Hazards Resilience Network. Please visit their site to find out more.