Shorelines 101 for Summer Interns
Hi, my name is Anshuman, and I am an intern for People For Puget Sound for this summer. I am a student from the Duke University, and came all the way from the east coast to make my contribution to the protection of Puget Sound.
Newly arrived, my supervisor, Rein Attemann, told me I am going to work on a SMP project with him….SMP- what? I had no idea what he was talking about so he took me to a community workshop for shoreline property owners in Bremerton on June 22nd. The workshop served as an on-site introduction to shoreline ecology and restoration.
Perfect – exactly what I need to learn. Before heading out, I read up a little what SMP is:
- SMP stands for Shoreline Management Plan
- The goals are to:
- Protect ecological shoreline functions
- Accommodate appropriate uses on shorelines
- Maintain public access along shorelines
Everything sounds good so far- and later at the workshop I dug even deeper into the world of SMPs.
Bulkheads – yes or no?
It seemed pretty clear what the end goal of the SMP was, but I did not understand what was actually being done to achieve them. On the ferry over, Rein showed me bulkheads along the shorelines. Bulkheads are “mini seawalls”; they are manmade structures built along shorelines with the purpose of controlling beach erosion. We could see some concerns, though, looking at the bulkheads along the shoreline, at how the silt at the base gets ‘scoured’ by water forced down to the bed.
At the forum, I listened to the presenters explain how the bulkheads served to restrict marine wildlife’s access to nutrients that come from the shore. They gave many biological and geological arguments in favor of removing bulkheads to create a more natural gradient on the shore.
The failing bulkhead in Bremerton
The second part of the workshop was a site visit to a beach in a public park nearby. The park was of interest because it had an old failing bulkhead that was to be removed. This public space provided a space to experiment with what would happen to land after the removal of a long standing bulkhead.
We went to the park during an extreme low-tide and what was amazing was the variety of fauna within a few meters of the bulkhead, driving home the importance of understanding how the bulkhead interact with that part of the beach.
One point that I hadn’t thought about was role of shoreline trees, shrubs and grasses. The presenter demonstrated the relationship between both sides of a bulkhead through a photo of winged insects taken out of a forage fish’s stomach. These insects had fallen into the water from overhanging branches onto the beach and into the water where they become food for fish and wildlife; bulkheads serve to separate the shoreline from the vegetated zone, disrupting this process.
What a great day out and around at Puget Sound! I have not only got a better understanding of the issues facing Puget Sound, but I am also highly motivated to bring my knowledge to work! Rein, get me to work!