The Northwest Straits Foundation has been working in partnership with local Marine Resource Committees (MRCs) on shoreline stewardship efforts for decades in northern Puget Sound. In 2014, we became part of a regional effort called Shore Friendly to provide stewardship incentives to shoreline owners.

The goals of the program are reducing shoreline armoring (bulkheads, seawalls, groins) and restoring shoreline habitat. We work with communities and private landowners to ease concerns about shoreline restoration and help them make informed decisions regarding key features of a shoreline property like vegetation, drainage and setback of a home from the shore.

As a result of our efforts, many landowners are inspired to change how they manage their shoreline, resulting in improvements to our marine ecosystems stretching across Puget Sound.

We offer many different forms of assistance, but one of the best ways for us to help is to come out to your property to take a look at your areas of concern. Are you interested in having a trusted member of our team visit your property? Fill out the online form below to schedule a completely free site visit!

Scroll down to learn more about the many other forms of assistance we offer and why we feel this work is important.


The Puget Sound shoreline is in constant flux, with wind, waves, and other forces shaping and reshaping our bluffs and beaches and moving sediment along the shoreline. These natural processes create critical habitat for the diverse wildlife that use the nearshore region.


It is critically important to increase the amount of forage fish, such as Pacific sand lance and surf smelt, throughout the Puget Sound region. They are an essential part of the marine food web, feeding salmon, marine birds, and marine mammals. Armored shorelines can change or eliminate upper beach areas that are used by these small fish to lay their eggs. Salmon rely on healthy shorelines to ensure that enough of the small fish they prey on reproduce so that those prey populations are sustained over time. Bulkheads built below the high-tide line can destroy the shallow nearshore zone that young salmon need to migrate to the open ocean.

If the natural processes forming our shorelines are disrupted, ecological diversity suffers as populations of forage fish and salmon decrease. Without large fish, such as salmon, species at the top of the food web such as eagles and orcas, find themselves without enough food to eat.

A functioning food web begins with a healthy shoreline.


Hard armor refers to physical structures that are used to control shoreline erosion resulting from wave action. Structures such as bulkheads, seawalls, riprap, or breakwaters hold back sediment that is eroding from the upper shore or a bluff. See below for photo examples of commonly used hard armor structures.

Wooden Bulkhead with Groins

About 25% of Puget Sound’s 2,500 miles of shoreline is now lined with bulkheads, seawalls, and other “hard armor" structures. Some of it is on public land and in commercial developments—such as next to railroad tracks and roads—but much of it is on residential property.

Is armor helpful for managing erosion?

What many waterfront homeowners may not realize is that most residential properties along Puget Sound shores are not in high-erosion zones. Most have low to moderate erosion risk, with the specific characteristics of each property contributing to its erosion patterns.

Hard armor not only buries part of the beach, but it worsens erosion on nearby beaches and harms the delicate ecological balance that ensures the survival of salmon, shellfish, and other native species.

Is armor helpful for mitigating flooding from sea level rise?

If bluffs and beaches are allowed to erode naturally, their sand and sediment will help build up beaches as sea levels rise. However, if bulkhead construction increases, more of those materials will be locked up. Either way, rising waters are likely to breach or damage many bulkheads.

Sometimes the best way to manage erosion is to leave a shoreline in its natural state. See the animation below to learn more about the effects of hard armor on salmon.


  • No bulkheads/armoring
  • Natural beach debris, such as logs, which will absorb wave energy
  • Vegetation, from sturdy native trees on the upland all the way to eelgrass beds in the tidelands and shallow waters


  • Easier access to the beach. You no longer need to climb over unstable riprap or jump off a wall to get to the beach.
  • More of the beach will be available at higher tides.
  • Natural shorelines enhance the beauty of your property.
  • Increased habitat for forage fish, salmon, and other marine and upland critters for your viewing pleasure!
  • Conventional, hard methods (e.g., bulkhead, seawall, revetment, and rockery) disrupt natural ecosystems and tend to be difficult to permit and expensive to install. Hard structures can often be replaced with soft methods or removed completely to restore natural processes.


See below for a video from Shore Friendly Kitsap that provides a great overview of the benefits of the program for communities, individuals, and wildlife.

The Northwest Straits Foundation has been engaged in landowner education and outreach for many years. Since 2012, we have focused our nearshore restoration primarily on reducing shoreline armor. We work on both private and public lands, but a majority of our resources focus on providing assistance to implement shoreline improvements for private landowners.


We offer many different resources for communities and individual shoreline property owners, and we are always interested in trying new things!

We encourage groups of neighbors to contact us to schedule a beach walk for your shoreline community. There is so much to learn from a walk on the beach with experts in topics such as erosion, coastal geology, drainage, and vegetation.


We offer dedicated workshops on different topics so that if you have specific concerns, you can make informed decisions to address them.


  • Coastal and Beach Processes
  • Managing Beach and Bluff Erosion
  • Alternatives to Hard Shoreline Armoring
  • Benefits of Bulkhead Removal or Reduction
  • Native Vegetation and Proper Drainage Management for Slope Stability and Habitat


See below for videos and booklets that can help you get started without leaving your couch!

Your Marine Waterfront offers guidance on protecting your property while promoting healthy shorelines. This illustrated booklet summarizes the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Marine Shoreline Design Guidelines.


FREE site assessments are available to qualified shoreline property owners

If you have a concern related to your shoreline such as hard armoring, erosion, vegetation, and drainage we can help with design assistance, technical assistance and conversion to soft shore.


Restoration projects can be expensive, and we recognize that steep costs can be a barrier to improving habitat and stability for shoreline properties. We want to help to lessen the financial burden and are committed to helping to the greatest extent possible. We offer cost-share solutions and mini-grants to qualified shoreline property owners who are interested in armor removal, vegetation enhancements, drainage improvements, and even home relocation.

Wondering if you qualify for a Shore Friendly Mini‐Grant?



Northwest Straits Foundation, Sunlight Shores Country Club and Island County Marine Resources Committee are partners on the Sunlight Shores nearshore restoration project. In fall 2018, 350 linear feet of shoreline and 0.25 acres of nearshore habitat were restored within Useless Bay, Whidbey Island.

Aerial footage of Sunlight Shores Pre-Restoration:

Restoration required removal of debris, rip rap, fill, and creosote pilings.

Aerial footage of Sunlight Shores Post Restoration:

After removal of hard armor structures, the restoration team regraded the shoreline, acquired and placed large woody debris, amended the soil, mulched and planted. Thanks to volunteers, and members of both the Island County MRC and Sunlight Shores Country Club, planting was completed in less than three hours.



The Northwest Straits Foundation, Island County Marine Resources Committee, Washington State Parks, and Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group partnered to restore 1,600 linear feet of shoreline and two acres of beach at Cornet Bay in Deception Pass State Park.

Cornet Bay before restoration
Cornet Bay after restoration


The Northwest Straits Foundation, Island County Marine Resources Committee, and Naval Air Station Whidbey partnered in an effort to remove shoreline armor from the base of the feeder bluff located between Maylor Point and Forbes Point in Oak Harbor. This project was funded with grants from the National Estuary Program through the Habitat Strategic Initiative as well as the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Puget Sound Coastal Program and Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board.

Maylor Point before restoration
Maylor Point after restoration
There are many resources online to help you decide what is best for your shoreline. Here are some to get you started:


Find your property on this GIS-based map and learn more about marine conditions around your stretch of Puget Sound. You can even find historic photos of your shoreline here, to see how the coast has changed.

“Living shorelines” is a term used to define a number of shoreline protection options that allow for natural coastal processes to remain through the strategic placement of plants, stone, sand fill, and other structural and organic materials.

The Marine Shoreline Design Guidelines (MSDG) were developed to provide a comprehensive framework for site assessment and alternatives analysis to determine the need for shore protection and identify the technique that best suits the conditions at a given site. The MSDG were created to inform responsible management of Puget Sound shores for the benefit of landowners and our shared natural resources. This is a technical document to be used by professional coastal engineers and consultants.

Puget Sound is rich in cultural and ecological heritage. It is also in need of continued care. The Northwest Straits Foundation is able to increase the capacity of local communities to protect marine resources through the help of our generous donors and volunteers. Help protect our marine environment.

Questions? E-mail Lisa Kaufman at kaufman@nwstraitsfoundation.org

This project has been funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under assistance agreement PC-O1J223-01 Contract #16-05251 through the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Environmental Protection Agency or the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, nor does mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.


Created with an image by Ryan Stone - "untitled image"