The Washington State Department of Ecology, as well as King County and the City of Seattle, have published brochures outlining “Green Shorelines – Bulkhead Alternatives for a Healthier Lake Washington." The emphasis in these documents is removal of your existing bulkhead and the creation of a beach and habitat that will protect fish, wildlife and water quality in Washington. You can learn more from these different organizations by searching their websites listed here.
The proposed, updated codes will allow new or enlarged structural shoreline stabilization (bulkheads, etc.) only where a geotechnical study shows it is necessary to protect the primary structure or use.
Performance bonds not to exceed a term of five years may be required to ensure compliance with the conditions.
The proposed code will allow new or enlarged structural shoreline stabilization only where a geotechnical study shows it is necessary to protect the primary structure or use. The code would clarify and add specificity to protocol for demonstrating the need for hard engineering through geotechnical study, pursuant to WAC 173.26.231D.
The code will allow "hard engineering" only where it is demonstrated that principal structures are threatened, and to allow replacement of existing "hard engineering" only where it is demonstrated that principal uses or structures are threatened. To comply with WAC guidelines, a provision is also included that allow bulkheads to protect single family residential principal structures (this may exclude associated structures like boathouses and storage buildings).
The proposed code would require that new bulkheads be placed at or above ordinary high water. This is restrictive, since the greatest need for the bulkhead is to protect waterfront property below the high water line from the severe erosion caused by winter storms during low water.
The proposed code would allow replacement of shoreline stabilization structures with similar structures, if the replacement structure is designed and constructed to assure no net loss of ecological function. It's up to the permitting agencies to determine what constitutes "no net loss."
The proposed code would define bulkhead replacement as new construction, if the repairs make the bulkhead taller or longer (pursuant to WAC 173-26-231). Thus, as part of a normal repair to your existing bulkhead, if it is determined that you require additional protection for your waterfront property, you would be required to obtain a "new construction" permit as if there were no existing bulkhead.
In addition, where property or structures are at risk, the proposed code changes state that they would allow new or enlarged structural shoreline stabilization only where a geotechnical study shows it is necessary to protect the primary structure or use.