Shoreline Armoring
Net change in permitted shoreline armor
This indicator measures the net change in shoreline armor (new armor minus removed armor, measured in shoreline miles) permitted under the WDFW Hydraulic Project Approval. Shoreline armor refers to structures like bulkheads, seawalls, and rip rap. These structures directly alter geologic processes that supply sediment to build and maintain beaches and spits and have the potential to diminish the availability and condition of key shoreline habitats.
Net change in permitted shoreline armor
By: Permitting Type
The annual length (shoreline miles) of new and removed shoreline armor permitted under the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Hydraulic Project Approval. The cumulative net change of shoreline armor is the sum total of the difference (new minus removed) between 2011 and 2020. Replacement of existing shoreline armor is the most common armor project but does not change the cumulative net length in permitted armor.

Key Vital Sign Indicator Results

  • New armor continues to be permitted for construction under the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) on Puget Sound shorelines at the rate of 0.69 miles per year since 2005.
  • Armor replacement is the most common shoreline activity in the permit record, involving nearly 2 miles of shoreline every year since 2005. Work with landowners to use more ecologically sound methods to replace or repair armor is one of the best opportunities to gain shoreline function. 
  • Cumulatively from 2011 to 2020, WDFW allowed the removal of 4.85 miles of armor under HPA permits and permitted 4.71 total miles of new armor construction. Cumulatively over those ten years, more armor was permitted for removal than for construction, thereby meeting the target. Permitted activities are moving in the right direction. However, despite meeting the target, the net loss of armor is a very small amount compared to the legacy of armor (715 miles) in Puget Sound.
  • HPA permits are used to track permitted activities on shorelines for this indicator, be it construction, removal or replacement of armor. However, information in the permits and in the HPA database may not be an accurate reflection of projects on the ground. The database does not account for projects that do not require an HPA, projects that are out of compliance, or illegal shoreline modifications. More work needs to be done to assess the impacts of replacement armor projects and unpermitted activities.
  • The rate of new armor permitted through the HPA has slowed since 2013. The length of new armor in 2020 was the lowest permitted amount in a single year between 2005 and 2020.
  • 80 percent of new shoreline armor by length was permitted for construction within six Puget Sound county geographic boundaries (Pierce, Mason, Island, Skagit, San Juan, Kitsap) between 2011 and 2020.
  • Single family residences are the most common applicant type for new shoreline armor permits. Single family residences applied for over 60 percent of the total new shoreline armor length between 2011 and 2020.
  • Nearly 2 miles of shoreline armor was removed in Kitsap and Clallam County geographic boundaries between 2011 and 2020, accounting for 40 percent of the total armor removed over that time period.

Contributing Partners

Recovery Target

From 2011 to 2020, the total amount of armoring removed should be greater than the total amount of new armoring in Puget Sound (total miles removed is greater than the total miles added).

Data Source

Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA)

Vital Sign Indicator Reporter
Methods and More Results
Last Updated
8/31/2021