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State Hears Oral Arguments in Rip Rap Appeal

Today, Oregon's State Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) heard oral arguments from proponents and opponents of a shoreline armoring project in Tillamook County. The hearing comes one year after Surfrider Foundation, Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition, Oregon Coast Alliance, and the Department of Land Conservation and Development appealed the land use decision by Tillamook County that enabled a group of homeowners to install riprap where currently disallowed. The County's decision makes an exception to a critical land use goal that protect's Oregon's public beaches and dunes, raising strong concerns from Surfrider and other parties to the appeal. The State's LUBA is said to make a decision on the appeal by September 26.

The case examines Goal 18, Oregon’s primary land use planning goal that protects public beaches by disallowing shoreline armoring projects, such as riprap and seawalls on an oceanfront properties developed after 1977. It is well understood that these projects undermine public beaches and recreation along the ocean shore by steepening and narrowing the shoreline, often rendering a beach no longer walkable on higher tides and even dangerous for beachgoers - more on that here. The appeal of this private vs. public land use determination is critical in protecting future decisions upholding Goal 18's intention to protect public resources. The arguments heard today from both sides of the appeal revolved primarily around whether or not the "reasons" of the homeowners justify an exception to the statewide law. These "reasons" become careful study for any current and future cases whereby developers and private interests may seek (and litigate) exceptions that diminish the public beaches and resources. That's why Surfrider and other groups launched this ongoing campaign at the local level early and have been collaborating for the past year in appealing to the State's LUBA.

aerial view of oceanfront homes An aerial view of Pine Beach before homeowners destroyed the natural barrier. Notice the amount of trees and natural barriers between the homes and the ocean shore. In contrast, note the armored shoreline and rip rap to the north at the top of the image. Homeowners have actually removed these natural barriers in an interest to develop rock armoring that, similar to the northern property, will eventually undermine the adjacent public beach shoreline.

Surfrider Foundation’s beach preservation policy recognizes that beaches are a public resource and should be held in the public trust. Due to their impacts on beaches, public recreation  and coastal ecosystems, sea walls and similar stabilization devices are not consistent with our mission for protection, conservation of and access to coastal resources. In areas where erosion threatens existing coastal development, the Surfrider Foundation advocates appropriate long-term solutions that maximize public benefit. Under no circumstances does the Surfrider Foundation support the installation of stabilization or sand retention structures along the coastline.