Neskowin landslide which homeowners hope to cover with rockfall mesh.  Photo by Bill Busch.

Neskowin landslide which homeowners hope to cover with rockfall mesh. Photo by Bill Busch.

A plan by Neskowin homeowners Ken and Judy Graham to stabilize the eroding slope beneath their house has drawn an argument in opposition from Oregon Shores.  The Grahams have applied to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), which is responsible for permits to alter the shoreline, for permission to install rockfall mesh over a previous installation that has been failing.  We argue that this is the wrong solution to the wrong problem.

The Grahams’ home at the southern end of Neskowin was threatened by a landslide in 2012.  On the basis of an emergency permit, they installed riprap at the toe of the landslide, and rock facing on the slope above.  While the riprap held, the rock placed on the slope did not, and much of it wound up on the beach.  (To their credit, the Grahams had it removed.)  They now seek a permit to stabilize what is left of the rock on the slope with mesh, which we contend is unlikely to be effective and will certainly be unsightly.

The claim is that wave erosion threatens the house and property, justifying the new project.  However, by the Grahams’ own testimony, the riprap itself has been effective and continues to protect the bluff from wave action.  The riprap is therefore not the issue, and Oregon Shores is not opposing its being left in place.  The threat to the house is due to a landslide, not erosion from the ocean side.  Rock and rockfall mesh will not halt the slide.  It may be that nothing can arrest the landslide, but we argue that the best hope is not a rigid structural approach, but vegetating the slope with native vegetation.  This would work with rather than against nature, and would also improve the appearance of the slide area, rather than turn it into a greater eyesore, diminishing the beauty of the area for all who visit it.

OPRD’s regulations require that all non-rigid alternatives, including vegetation, be explored before a hardened shoreline protection structure is allowed.  We believe that the department should follow its own rules and insist that natural vegetation be given preference in this case, to everyone’s benefit.  We await OPRD’s decision.