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How Do I Care for My Shoreline?

Shorelines are shaped by complex processes that connect the land to the sea, and when considering how to care for an individual property, it is important to understand how that property fits into the processes that structure its surrounding environment. The purpose of this website is to assist land owners to assess their site and to identify the existing conditions and features that will affect, or be affected by, changes or modifications on their waterfront property.  

Waterfront owners are encouraged to protect the natural processes that form the shoreline and related marine and terrestrial habitat. By looking at the shoreline differently, taking into consideration the natural processes that shape them and learning where sensitive habitat and features exists, land owners will be able to take simple steps to ensure our local waters continue to support a vibrant marine ecosystem for future generations 

More information about the sensitive marine habitat can be found in the Sharing Our Shorelines Brochure.

The answers to many of the questions below are available online using the interactive MapIT application.  Although mapping is very informative, it cannot replace observations you can make by walking the site and surrounding areas, particularly noticing seasonal and other changes over time.

Shoreline Types  

Shorelines of the major islands in the Trust Area have now been mapped by coastal experts into one of six shoreline types based on the substrate and topography.

Geologists define sediments with categories based on size. Sediments are usually a mixture of grain sizes. Sediment sizes can be used to determine sediment mobility caused by waves and current energy.

  • Rock --      bedrock, sediment may be present as veneer
  • Boulder --  greater than 256 mm (about basketball size and larger)
  • Cobble --   64 to 256 mm (about grapefruit size)
  • Pebble --   2 to 64 mm (about pea to apple size)
  • Sand --     0.2 to 2 mm
  • Silt --         less than 0.2 mm 
Sea Cliff Gowlland2 Bluff
Sea Cliff Low Rock/Boulder Bluff
Boulder Cobble Pebble Sand Marsh Fine Sediment
Boulder/Cobble Pebble/Sand Marsh/Fine Sediment

Special Shoreline Features

When the shoreline mapping was conducted features that are particularly sensitive or that have high ecological or recreational values were also identified.  Read More

Coastal Processes

Shorelines are dynamic and ever-changing environments that are continually effected by winds, wave, and the movement of sediment.  Some changes are readily evident on a human time scale, while some changes occur over a much longer, geological time scale.  Read More 

Site Considerations

Before developing or altering a waterfront property what should a land owner consider? Read More 

The Green Shores Approach to Development

'Green Shores' is a program of the Stewardship Centre for British Columbia that promotes sustainable use of the shoreline by recognizing the ecological features and function of the shoreline ecosystems.  Read More

Green Shores for Homes

The Islands Trust has been collaborating with San Juan County and the City of Seattle exploring ways to recognize land owners develop, or redevelop their waterfront property using Green Shores Design Principles.  Read More 


Use this online, interactive mapping program to learn more about the shoreline features on your island.  Read More

Reports and Publications

Looking for background reports and more information? Read More

Page last updated: 13/08/19
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