Frequently Asked Questions


What is Shore Friendly?

Shore Friendly is a program originally developed by the Washington State Departments of Fish and Wildlife and Natural Resources with funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Estuary Program. Currently, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, through their Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program, leads Shore Friendly and administers grants to local programs throughout Puget Sound.

With Washington State capital and federal EPA funding, the local programs also fund homeowner grants, permitting assistance, workshops, and site visits in all Puget Sound counties.


Will removing my bulkhead increase the value of my property?

It’s hard to say definitively whether a more natural shoreline will increase your property’s value. But many buyers find softer shorelines more attractive and prefer to avoid the future expense of repairing or replacing a bulkhead—especially if the structure is not necessary in the first place.

Can the state or county force me to remove my bulkhead?

If your bulkhead was originally built with a permit, you will not be required to remove it. However, you do need a permit to remove, replace, or substantially repair an existing bulkhead.

Can I get help paying for bulkhead removal and/or installing soft shore protection?

Small grants may be available through the Northwest Straits Foundation, some Puget Sound counties, or other organizations to offset the cost of these types of projects. You can search for resources in your area to learn more.


How can I find out whether my property is in a high-erosion zone?

The Northwest Straits Foundation and local programs offer free site visits to assess erosion risk. To find out if a free site visit is available to you, look for resources in your area.

You can also consult the Washington State Coastal Atlas, which lets you view the slope stability and landforms of any stretch of coastline, for additional information about your shoreline.


What laws govern waterfront development on Puget Sound?

At the state level, shoreline development is governed by the Shoreline Management Act of 1971 and the Hydraulic Code. The Shoreline Management Act requires each city and county with shorelines to create its own management program that adheres to the principles of the act. The Hydraulic Code regulates projects in the water and along the shoreline, to protect fish and marine habitat.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has regulatory authority over projects that affect navigable waters of the U.S., including dredging, filling, or construction of overwater structures.

Our state offers a combined permit application called the Joint Aquatic Resources Permit Application (JARPA) that covers all approvals at the local, state, and federal levels except for Hydraulic Project Approval through the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife.


How can I convene my neighbors to discuss the bulkhead on our shared beach?

A great first step is to host a gathering with snacks and an informal discussion (and optional beach walk) with a shoreline management specialist. In many Puget Sound counties, you’ll find programs that provide such visits for free. You can also schedule an erosion assessment on your property and invite neighbors to listen and observe.

Another way to engage your neighbors is to schedule an erosion assessment for your own property and invite them to listen and observe.

You can start building relationships with your neighbors by collaborating on a small project, such as a work party to remove invasive plants along your shared beach. This can lead to discussions about more significant projects such as hard armor removal, maintaining a shared beach access trail or staircase, or installing soft shore protection.

New homeowners can learn a great deal by talking with longtime residents of the neighborhood. Those neighbors will have historical knowledge about major storms, landslides, slope stability in the area, and past conservation efforts.

Photo credit: Placeholder

A shoreline workshop in Oakland Bay, hosted by Mason Conservation District


How do I find a good contractor?

Contact local salmon recovery groups, environmental groups, and government agencies to ask about contractors they have worked with. These groups might not be able to make an official recommendation, but they tend to choose contractors that are well trained and experienced.

When you interview contractors, be sure to cover these topics:

  • Do they have any training in coastal conservation?
  • Do they specialize in bulkhead installation, or do they offer a full range of shoreline solutions, including soft shore protection?

Also ask to see:

  • References or testimonials from past clients
  • Photos of past projects
  • Evidence of proper insurance


How much will sea levels rise in the coming decades?

The amount of sea-level rise will depend on many variables, but the U.S. National Climate Assessment estimates a rise of 1 to 4 feet by 2100. Rising waters and storm surges will threaten many waterfront structures, including bulkheads.