There is a weak spot near the mouth of Ecola Creek on the north side of the estuary, in Cannon Beach. It is a low sand cliff, and always
erodes further during high
storm waves. This would not matter much, except that the Breakers Point condominium development
was built too close to the edge of Ecola - as was recognized at the time - and the erosion continually threatens both Breakers and buried pipelines. During winter storms, especially when compounded by king tides, Ecola Creek estuary fills to the brim and erosion at the weak
accelerates. In December 2015, exactly this happened, endangering
some of the Breakers Point buildings, as well as gas main stubs embedded in the cliff.
Cannon Beach authorized emergency grading, which turned out to be illegal as designed, and led to a violation from the Parks and Recreation Department
Breakers Point Homeowners Association subsequently sought, and obtained, approval to place a "soft burrito" type of shoreline stabilization along the
north bank. Willows
can be planted in the matting to help stabilize the shoreline. Unfortunately, the mouth of Ecola Creek is too dynamic an environment for the usual kind of soft burrito stabilization project, and within a couple of years it disintegrated.
. It is inappropriate, as well as contrary to Cannon
documents, for Breakers Point to grade the dunes in front of the development and dump the sand in Ecola Creek to shore up the eroding spot. Nor does it offer a permanent solution to the problem.
Most recently, Breakers Point decided to try another tactic: the HOA applied for a
building permit to construct a seawall of sheet pile to stop the estuary erosion. Since this would be a shoreline armoring project, Breakers Point should have applied for the usual conditional use permit, which requires extensive public hearings and decisions by the planning commission and City Council. Instead, Breakers Point - perhaps thinking to avoid the controversies of a public process - requested a building permit, normally the final permit after all land use approvals have been granted.
Greatly to its credit, city officials rejected the
grounds that the HOA must go through the regular conditional use permit process. If Breakers Point does submit such an application, Oregon Coast Alliance will be there, vigorously defending the need for natural processes
in the Ecola estuary.
So what is the solution to the constant erosion? One would be
to remove the portions of Breakers' Point built too close to the estuary's edge, thus giving
the estuary the room it needs.
The other solution is probably some kind of cobble berm. This uses ordinary-size stones (cobbles) spread along the beach to break the force of waves, sometimes in conjunction with a "burrito" type of structure above it. These are expensive and must be carefully designed to work in such dynamic environments, but have proven successful in several environments on our coast, most especially on the shoreline by South Jetty on the Columbia.
Oregon Coast Alliance supports a cobble berm solution, and urges Cannon Beach, Breakers Point and interested residents to come together and explore
the ways and means
to provide a non-intrusive, permanent solution
to the erosion problem.