It's time for agencies and citizens to cooperate in managing for the future of the beach
In the Observer's weekly history column today is an overview of controversies that blew up over ownership of accreted beach and dunes on the Peninsula in the middle of the last century.
The article provides excellent background relevant to current efforts by Washington State Parks to consolidate its land holdings here. The articles make explicit the fact Parks will be breaking its word if it takes any step harmful to the interests of upland owners. A promise is a promise, and they better keep it.
People here have a funny blind spot when it comes to the capriciousness of nature. Photos of the Peninsula before the beach grew show breakers rolling up to the yards of Seaview's K Place homes and the cliffs at Beard's Hollow. Nowhere to be seen are the dunes that now are so much a topic of concern. Fifty years of pounding surf from now, the Peninsula may look as it did then.
The enormous fights that accompanied divvying up the new land when it grew and the wrestle over developing/conserving it today may pale in comparison to the turmoil that arises as the Pacific continues reclaim what was once its domain. Already, millions in expenses are being racked up as State Parks relocates campgrounds and utilities as a major part of its flat land disappears at Cape Disappointment.
All this turmoil, in the end, is about the most innocuous of things - the often microscopically small grains of sediment moved by the ocean and Columbia. This material, much of it originally volcanic in origin, forms the foundation of the sandbar we call home. From Tillamook Head in Oregon to Point Grenville halfway up the Olympic Peninsula, this is what builds beaches.
Thanks to a five-year state-federal study, we know this region is at the point of noticing a tremendous deficit in sediment. In other words, there isn't enough arriving on beaches to sustain them. The prevailing theory for why this is holds that federal navigation projects like the jetties and dredge disposal practices keep sediment from reaching areas that need it.
The Washington State Department of Ecology, U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, this newspaper and others have strenuously advocated a regional sediment management plan, treating this beach-building material as the valuable resource it is instead of as garbage to be disposed of.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is showing signs of hearing this message and is conducting a workshop Saturday in Ilwaco to help establish a framework for addressing sediment issues. This is commendable.
It's time to set animosity and old fights aside as we come together to grapple with a set of issues that will literally determine the shape of the Peninsula for decades to come.