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Prevent Shoreline Armoring in Tillamook County

Prevent Shoreline Armoring in Tillamook County

Uphold Oregon's beach protection law (Goal 18) that prevents shoreline armoring

Seawalls and riprap structures are intended to protect coastal development but are detrimental to our beaches. In the long term these structures degrade the coastline, ultimately eliminating the beaches we know and love. 

Beaches are a publicly owned resource that we all have the right to enjoy. Statewide Land Use Planning Goal 18 sets out to protect and preserve Oregon’s beaches and dunes by prohibiting the construction of riprap on properties adjacent to the beach. 

Some coastal property owners in Tillamook County are looking for an exception to Goal 18’s restrictions. They have submitted applications to the county in an attempt to circumvent the policy preventing riprap. Now, the county is in the process of wrestling with a land-use decision. 

Surfrider and its Oregon Chapters insist that the Tillamook County Board of Commissioners deny this application for a Goal 18 exception and critically consider future requests for shoreline armoring. Surfrider’s goal is to preserve the County’s stretch of beach near the Barview Jetty and protect public access. We also want our advocacy to extend throughout the Oregon coastline, empowering decision-makers to reject shoreline armoring as a means of addressing coastal hazards.

We urge the Board of Commissioners to deny the property owners’ applications, and instead, look toward alternative methods that will address the property owners needs while continuing to preserve our coastline. 

Update – November 9, 2021

The Tillamook County Board of Commissioners has approved the Goal 18 exception, making the applicant properties eligible for shoreline armoring. Surfrider Foundation and Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition are appealing a decision by Tillamook County that would allow a major shoreline armoring project to take place through an “exception” to statewide land use law. The groups are jointly represented by the non-profit Crag Law Center. More information on the appeal is available here.

Update – November 18, 2021

Oceanfront homeowners in Tillamook County seeking an exception to a statewide planning law that prevents shoreline protection (seawalls, rip rap, etc.) for homes built after 1977, spent Veteran’s Day weekend destroying and removing their only line of defense between their homes and the ocean. The homeowners, concerned with the occasional high water during extreme tides and storm events applied for a Goal 18 exception earlier this year with the County. While the county decision is being appealed homeowners in the area, as if in a game of “chicken” with state policy, brought in the stump grinders, chippers and earth movers in the meantime and removed nearly every last tree. They have destroyed the foredune structure and flattened the landscape between the homes and the ocean shore further putting themselves in harm’s way. Read more here.

Update – April 12, 2022

A lot has been happening in the background of our appeal of Tillamook County's decision to allow shoreline armoring in the Pine Beach area. The appeal will go to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) on behalf of both Surfrider and the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition, represented by Crag Law Center. Currently, our legal team is working with Tillamook County to make sure all of the evidence and public comment submitted during the County's decision is collected for LUBA (this is called “the record”). Once the record is settled, a timeline will be set for the parties to submit written briefs and then to provide oral arguments at a hearing.

Update - October 1, 2022

The Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) announced its decision Sept. 30 and the results are mixed.  We could declare victory, as LUBA determined that the county’s decision wasn’t justified and “remanded” the case to the county (meaning that the county’s approval of the riprap permit was flawed and would have to be reconsidered). As of now, the landowners who riprapped the shore do not have a valid permit for this. What is more, LUBA rejected most of the county’s arguments for allowing the “exception.” We can say that we won a battle.

However, LUBA ruled in favor of the county and the landowners on a key point: Despite rejecting all but one of the county’s “catch-all” grounds for the exception, LUBA held that it would be possible to grant an exception due to “unique circumstances,” those circumstances being erosion created by the existence of two century-old jetties and El Nino/La Nina events. Read the full update here.

Update - November 1, 2022

Fully aware of our appeal, the landowners in Tillamook County began constructing the improvements, which included tree removal, grading, installation of riprap, and other significant activities. In deciding to proceed with construction, the applicants accepted the risk that their approvals might be remanded or reversed, rendering their improvements unpermitted. With LUBA’s remand, the applicants currently lack the required permits and authorizations for their land use activities. As such, Surfrider, Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition, and Oregon Coast Alliance submitted a letter to Tillamook County requesting that they take action to enforce their zoning ordinance and complete removal of these unlawful improvements, as well as restore the landscape where the armoring was installed. Read the full letter here.

Update - March 14, 2023

With the applicants having initiated the remand proceedings with the County, the Tillamook County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to reapprove the rip rap for the undeveloped lots.

Update - March 22, 2023

Tillamook County issued the final notice of decision, stating their findings for why the undeveloped properties should also be eligible for rip rap. While Surfrider and our partners strongly disagree with this decision and the rationale behind it, our legal counsel has determined that due to the substantial evidence standard of review an additional legal challenge would not be successful. In light of this setback, we are exploring other strategies for a more holistic approach to protecting Oregon’s coast and beaches.