Sunday, June 9, 2013

Saving Puget Sound Shorelines One Property At A Time

You want to reduce speeding accidents, you have to talk to drivers, right? And if you want to save Puget Sound shorelines, you have to talk to shoreline property owners.

That’s not necessarily been an easy task around shoreline regulations, especially during the recent rounds of upgrading county and city shoreline master programs, and ending up telling shoreline property owners what they can and can’t do on their properties.

Now, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Washington Department of Natural Resources are advertising for a consultant to learn how best to talk to shoreline property owners about voluntarily taking care of their properties. The contract is for a “Social Marketing Strategy to Reduce Puget Sound Shoreline Armoring.”

The project is worth $250,000 and here’s what we will get:

“This project will identify the barriers and motivators for landowners along marine shorelines of Puget Sound in choosing alternatives to shoreline armoring, so that the right combination of technical assistance, education, incentives, and other strategies can be used to achieve a reduction in armoring. It will describe how to motivate segments of the marine shoreline landowner population to voluntarily remove existing armoring or to forgo armoring where the shoreline is currently undeveloped. It will use existing information, as well as gather new data from target audiences, about actual barriers and motivators to choosing alternatives to armoring. Building on past lessons and successes of similar efforts, it will recommend education, incentives, messages, and other strategies that will be effective in influencing target audiences to actually remove or forgo armoring. It will provide clear, innovative, and realistic approaches for entities in the Puget Sound region to implement social marketing and behavior change campaigns.”
There have been several campaigns to engage shoreline property owners in stewardship. Island County Beachwatchers, People For Puget Sound and even the Puget Sound Action Team have spent time with property owners. Read the Action Team’s report from the 2005 Puget Sound/Georgia Basin Research Conference: “Educating Shoreline Landowners: Examples From King, Whatcom, Kitsap, Jefferson, Mason and Pierce Counties; A Perspective on Approaches and Effectiveness in eliciting on-the-ground change.”

I’m sure there are other past examples of trying to engage shoreline property owners the agencies and a consultant can learn from as well.

Two things come to mind:

There’s a power in demonstrating these alternatives that no amount of talk talk talk can accomplish. If the federal, state and local governments begin by engineering alternatives to shoreline armoring on our public properties, we might accomplish something by leading by example.

Second, engaging property owners is something the government most likely can’t do because a lot of shoreline property owners don’t trust the government. Just as with boaters, whoever is advocating stewardship has to be on the side of shoreline property owners, who have to come to see themselves as stewards of the shorelines.

If that were simply a matter of saying the right things, it would already have been a slam dunk. The Partnership’s recovery dashboard says how much farther we have to go towards achieving shoreline health and alternatives to armoring in Puget Sound, “Shoreline Armoring” --
“The amount of new shoreline armoring in Puget Sound was substantially greater than the amount removed for every year from 2005 through 2010 (Figure 1 in Latest data and maps section). Cumulatively, a net amount (new armoring minus removed armoring) of six miles of new armoring was constructed during this time frame, or on average, one mile of additional armoring per year. This pattern of net gain in armoring is the opposite of what is needed to meet the 2020 target. However, the net amount of armoring per year declined by roughly 50% over these six years....”
--Mike Sato


  1. A major block to communicating effectively is to assume all hard armoring must be removed. The cyclical nature of tides may remove too much upland material from areas that were built closer to the tideline before regulations began to require major setbacks, thus citizens can be in danger or losing their homes. It has to happen on a case by case basis with a clear understanding of the geology of a given area.

  2. I am happy to see this extra emphasis on an important topic. From my experience, Social Marketing is a good tool to apply. It also seems like public awareness of the potential negative effects is increasing and this effort should add to that as well. I am aware of non-Gov't activities to address some instances of existing hard-armoring and also to do more outreach about it. Hopefully this project will also devolve into case by case actions and demonstrations of positive results. Thanks for bringing it up.


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