Living on Bluffs – Living at the base of a bluff

Landslides_guideline5Many beachfront communities in the Puget Sound region were built along the shoreline on a flat area at the base of a bluff. These communities are often accessed by roads that cut across the bluff, often zig-zagging down the bluff’s face. Up until the practice was halted by the state in the 1960s, some developers would use heavy equipment and large hoses to wash bluff material down the slope and onto the beach, creating a base of soil, dirt and rocks on which they could build new homes. In many of these locations, these were originally feeder bluffs, naturally eroding to nourish the beach below. If your home is in one of these communities, between the bluff and shoreline, you should consider what actions you and your neighbors can take to minimize the likelihood of slides.

If there are trees on the slope behind you, leave them in place whenever possible. If they appear to be in danger of falling onto your house, contact a reputable arborist to determine the health of the trees prior to removing them. You should also leave native vegetation in place. These trees and plants help stabilize the bluff with their root systems and by removing water from the soil and transpiring it into the air. If neighbors at the top of the bluff want to cut trees on or near the bluff’s edge you may want to discuss your slope stability concerns with them. You should also check with your planning department, since removing or topping the trees may not be allowed within a certain distance from the bluff’s edge. Guideline 2 offers alternatives to topping or cutting trees by pruning in a manner that retains or improves the view, yet not harming the health of the tree.

If there are roads or pathways down the slope, have an engineer design a method to channel runoff along these hardened surfaces to the beach without flowing down or across the slope and causing erosion. Do not try to dig ditches or channel the water yourself, as this can do more damage than good.