WSDOT Gets $9.9M to Help Stop Willapa Bay Beach Erosion That Threatens State Route 105

Area also receives $940K grant for climate resilience planning upriver, including the towns of Raymond and South Bend

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) announced a new $9,980,730 grant that will help prevent beach erosion at Graveyard Spit at the northern entrance to Willapa Bay, preserving crucial habitat for endangered birds and protecting State Route 105.

The grant comes from the National Coastal Resilience Fund managed by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It was awarded to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), which will oversee construction of naturally-sloped berms that absorb wave energy and reduce beach erosion. A second National Coastal Resilience Fund grant of $940,000 has also been awarded to the Pacific Conservation District to make plans for preserving salmon habitat and reducing flooding risk as the area prepares for sea level rise.

The National Coastal Resilience Fund invests in restoring or expanding natural coastal features that protect people, fish, and wildlife from storms, sea level rise, and other hazards. The program is funded in part through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. During negotiations of the law, Sen. Cantwell championed and delivered substantial increases in funding for coastal resilience programs, including this one.

"Communities around Willapa Bay have stepped up to save their shorelines, pioneering coastal erosion solutions like cobble berms," said Sen. Cantwell. "Matching community know-how with targeted grant funds is the smart way to face the climate crisis. These two grants help the residents of Pacific County take needed action now, while planning for future climate impacts."

WSDOT matched the grant with a $797,475 contribution.

“The nearly $10 million National Fish & Wildlife Foundation grant is an important investment in Washington’s coastal resiliency by protecting vital community infrastructure including State Route 105 along Willapa Bay that is threatened by coastal erosion, flooding, and sea level rise,” WSDOT Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar said. “This innovative dynamic revetment and dune restoration project is made possible thanks to many partners including the Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe, the Washington State Department of Ecology, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Willapa Erosion Control Action Now (WECAN) coming together with a shared vision, working together to identify an implementable solution that will protect and restore critical habitat while acting as a natural buffer for the region’s primary transportation corridor. We would also like to thank Senator Cantwell for supporting this important project.”

The north entrance of Willapa Bay has been coping with erosion for decades. It is classified as a high-energy coast, where large storms create crashing waves that tear away sections of beach.

Shrinking coastal habitat threatens the survival of two native Washington birds: the endangered western snowy plover and streaked horned lark. A salt marsh directly behind the beach is also under threat. Eventually, beach erosion could destroy parts of State Route 105 -- the only way out to the north for residents of the Shoalwater Bay Indian Reservation and those who live in the nearby town of Tokeland.

The Army Corps of Engineers and community partners have pioneered new techniques to slow beach erosion at Willapa Bay. Large, naturally-sloped berms made of small rocks, also called cobble berms, absorb wave energy, diminishing the wave action that destroys the beach.

The project will protect 65 acres of existing critical habitat and create 10 acres of upland dune habitat.

A second, $940,000 grant from the National Coastal Resilience Fund was awarded to the Pacific Conservation District to complete a study of how development and sea-level rise could affect the Willapa River and the area's important shellfish industry, as well as flood risks to the towns of Raymond and South Bend. The Pacific Conservation District is matching the $940,000 grant with a $172,500 contribution.

Sen. Cantwell – who serves as Chair of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation –  is a strong supporter of coastal resilience, which is crucial for salmon recovery and for Washington state’s infrastructure. Coastal resilience is also a vital issue for many Tribal communities.

In Washington state, five National Coastal Resilience Fund grants were announced today, totaling $18.5 million.

The National Coastal Resilience Fund is managed by the NFWF and NOAA. Nationwide, 88 National Coastal Resilience Fund grants were announced, totaling $136 million