State Parks Approves Riprap Application Despite Objections

Photo of coastal property south of Lost Creek, by Sara Schreiber.
Stretch of shoreline south of Lost Creek to be riprapped. Photo by Sara Schreiber.

It is no surprise to learn that the riprap application for a lot south of Newport, which had aroused the concern of some CoastWatchers, was approved by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD).  Those interested in seeing the approval and the conditions imposed can find this here.

Applicant Richard Figenshu requested that a temporary Emergency Permit he had received for his house at 13650 S. Coast Hwy (south of Lost Creek) be converted into a permanent permit for a shoreline protection structure. The riprap is to be covered with sand to a height of 25 feet, and the sand is to be planted with beachgrass to “provide a more natural appearance than exposed riprap boulders,” according to OPRD.  Of course, European beachgrass is an invasive species, and Oregon Shores opposes its use.

A number of CoastWatchers wrote to request a hearing on the application, but evidently not enough. Oregon Shores submitted comments opposing the permit on several grounds. We do not believe that the applicant demonstrated that there are no alternatives (e.g., moving the structure), as required under Oregon Administrative Rules. Permanent, hardened shoreline protection structures are supposed to be the last resort; that isn’t Oregon Shores’ contention, it is the rule.  We have consistently objected to OPRD’s readiness to permit hardened structures without seriously examining possible alternatives. Oregon Shores also does not believe that the existence of riprap previously allowed through an emergency permit should create a presumption that the riprap has permanent status, which appears to be what happened here.

Oregon Shores is also concerned about the failure to address the question of whether the proposed structure would limit public access along the beach at high tide.  This points toward the fundamental problem: increasing demands for riprap in an era of rising sea level could doom public beaches unless policies are changed.

One good thing came of this application. Oregon Shores protested to OPRD  that the permit could not be viewed online, requiring a delay while citizens requested a printed copy and waited for it to arrive in the mail, and preventing people from forwarding the information via e-mail.  New ocean shore permit coordinator Jay Sennewald was responsive to this request, followed up, and now applications for shoreline alterations will be viewable on the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department website (go to Permits, then to Ocean shore alteration permit applications and forms, and finally to Pending Permits.) This a positive step which will improve OPRD’s provision of information to the public.

To obtain a paper copy of the approval and supporting documents, contact Billie Seeger, Park Specialist, Ocean Shores, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, 12735 N.W. Pacific Coast Hwy, Seal Rock, OR  97376; (541) 563-8506.