Bulkhead Bashing

a-shore-thingThe December 2016 issue of Seattle Magazine has an article written by Maria Dolan on the effects of bulkheads on the environment. I’m not able to find a link to “A Shore Thing” at the time of posting this, or I’d be sharing it with you now. 🙂  If you’d like to read it now, it looks like you’ll have to pick up the December issue.

The photo is what first caught my eye since it features Beach Drive homes on bulkheads by Mee Kwa Mooks. This spot is not far from where the City has been talking about replacing the eroding seawall along Emma Schmitz Memorial Viewpoint. Our intrepid reporter, Scupper, wrote about the seawall almost three years ago…which has had band-aid repairs at most.

The article talks about how homeowners should consider removing their bulkheads. I would guess that for many of  the homes along Beach Drive, this would not be a viable option, as most the homes don’t have enough land or are do not have a high enough bank to accommodate a shore.

It will be interesting to see what winds up happening to the deteriorating bulkhead along Emma Schmitz.


  1. I remember when I first learned what a Bulkhead was, from Seattle Building Code books. They seem to protect many properties here in West Seattle from flooding or really flooding!

  2. Our home, which was built in the late 1920’s, pratically sits on the bulkhead… we would be underwater without it!

  3. It’s true, bulkheads are terrible for the marine and nearshore environment, with many negative impacts on habitats that support salmon. It’s also true that most of the bulkheads along the shore in West Seattle were built at a time when the marine ecology was not well understood and they were placed too far into the intertidal Very generally speaking, if driftwood accumulates in front of your bulkhead, you may be able to explore bulkhead removal options without damage to your property. However, the dynamics of beach drift cells and adjacent bulkheads that may push too far out into the intertidal need to be carefully considered. If driftwood doesn’t accumulate in front of your bulkhead, there may be ways to replace or reconfigure your bulkhead to mitigate some of the problems that come with placing a sheer wall into the intertidal, but you won’t be able to safely remove it completely. However, if you need to replace it in the name of maintenance/safety, check to see what kind of assistance and tax breaks may be available for folks who are trying to improve shoreline habitat as they deal with aging bulkheads. I used to work for a group that helped with this, and the savings can be significant.

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