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Erosion Continues Damage on Oregon Coast - Homes Threatened, More Finds

Published 03/07/21 at 6:50 PM PDT - Udpated 03/07/21 at 7:30 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Erosion Continues Damage on Oregon Coast - Homes Threatened

(Depoe Bay, Oregon) – Since December, Oregon's coastline has been getting battered by large waves and massive storms, resulting in unusual degrees of erosion along many beaches. Since January, many sloped foredunes no longer had a slope of any kind, simply a dropoff of some 5 to 10 feet, posing significant dangers. (Photo courtesy Oregon State Police)

It's also led to more interesting finds along the beaches as well as disturbing sights.

Major storm action has let up, but there's enough smaller storms kicking up the sands that erosion continues on some Oregon coast bluffs, now resulting in more than a few homes being threatened.

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One reached an emergency level this last week. On the first Saturday in March, Oregon State Police responded to calls from Lincoln Beach residents that a chunk of the land holding part of their beachfront property had collapsed. Concrete structures of a seawall that held up the soft soil of the area had shifted and became useless, leaving some parts of the structures dangling.

Pipes and what appeared to be part of a patio were either hanging or precariously close to the edge, leaving perhaps ten feet or less between the ledge and the main home structure.

Courtesy Fran Recht: you can see the same house as in the top photo, but a week before the major damage

Lincoln Beach is a community immediately north of Depoe Bay which blends in with Gleneden Beach just to the north of it. Reports and photos from volunteer group CoastWatch throughout the winter have documented many such instances of extreme erosion here and other places, showing a year with much more storm damage than usual. Storms Take Out Massive Chunks of Oregon Coast Dunes, Some Dangerous 

A report from CoastWatch in late February directly previewed what happened merely a week later. Photographed by CoastWatch volunteer Fran Recht on February 28, Recht actually caught the same home with the area beneath it getting battered by close waves. You can see a large chunk is already missing from the area next to it.

Then in the March photo at top, taken by Oregon State Police, that slumping slope is gone: in its place a gaping hole.

According the Newport News-Times, owners are searching frantically for a way to fix this, but legal restrictions for land use may not allow a home built after 1977 to drastically alter the beach beneath it. Methods such as rip rap have been found to be destructive to beaches around them, including shrinking them so they become more dangerous to others.

Major, destructive erosion moves in mysterious waves, however. Another CoastWatch report just up the road at Salishan Spit shows little or no erosion taking place in one area, which another closeby is getting repairs done to its rip rap.

Many places on the southern Oregon coast are still reporting significant washing away of dunes, including Otter Point.

Ocean Beach Picnic Ground: ancient stumps now showing in the bluffs, courtesy CoastWatch's "simmonsk"

Closer to Florence, Ocean Beach Picnic Ground has been an example of massive sand reduction, showing lots of bedrock in places. CoastWatch's simmonsk noted the cliffs have been eroded so much you are now seeing ancient driftwood (perhaps ghost forest ages of well over 1,000 years) embedded in the cliffs.

At Twin Rocks (southern Rockaway Beach), CoastWatch's highamm discovered many feet of bluffs were taken away (photo above).

“Newly exposed roots/trees falling,” they said. “Evidence of wave over-topping one of the main runoffs at marker 27F, has been redirected to the north and then to the ocean. This is also causing erosion to the bluff lines.”

At one point, you see see beach chairs that once sat perhaps ten feet or more away from the dunes are now at the edge of the dune.

Many, many beaches have wide open gravel beds at the moments because of lowered sand levels, meaning plenty of agate finds and possibly fossils, depending on which beach. CoastWatch reports are revealing a lot of this in just the past week.

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Dramatic erosion in January at Gleneden Beach, photo courtesy CoastWatch's "streets."

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