The Tide is Out - Photo from Wa Dept of Ecology
|Willapa Bay is not a Grand Canyon-type visual but the view is very much
our typical Pacific Northwest coast.
A week ago we watched our newest Netflix DVD, Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth. I can see
why it got an Academy Award Nomination.
I decided to ask Google some "Inconvenient-Truth"-related questions specifically about Willapa
Bay - a sweet body of water that surrounds my house on three sides.
Some describe Willapa Bay and like locations as "estuarian," where landlubbing freshwater blends
into seagoing salt water.
Esturian locations are most frequently habitated by small cities and towns, dairies, and farmlands
that are all visible on the landward side of Highway 101 to anyone driving up and down the Washington and Oregon Coasts.
Oh, and we've got lots of elk herds too.
the last available waterfront development properties on the
entire western coastline of the United States.
Photo is mine
|Then there are those mudflats with their promise of shellfish riches
hidden in shallow waters.
Add to that the lusting passion of property exploiters anxious to turn a dime with venture
A member of the Raymond city council recently told us that the council met a developer who expressed
that he is willing to spend whatever it takes to gain title to waterfront properties that - according to him - constitute
We know our coastline as a repeated blending of bluffs, headlands, beaches, sand spits and dunes
where lots of flora, fauna as well as water and land creatures have dwelt for thousands of years.
Except for the more popular small but expensive stretches of commercial holiday and vacation
beaches, our coastline is not even moderately developed. There are lots of parks and acreage owned by Native American reservations
- with or without trademark casinos.
If global warning stirs up hotter and meaner hurricanes and typhoons elsewhere, we are seeing meaner winds, heavier
rains, greater floodings coupled with more and more disappearing coastlines.
Goose Point oyster beds - Photo Wa Dept of Ecology
The actual village of Bay Center is separated from the rest of the peninsula by a small bridge
visible in the first picture above.
Global Warming will bring the sea level above that narrow channel and dunes over which the bridge
spans. My home town will ultimately and literally be an island.
Low coastlines near major river-mouths are vulnerable to heavy weather damage, particularly
flooding, mud slides and cave ins consequential to powerful rain and winds.
Click on Google "Light House Digest, Willapa Station" and you'll see a series of pictures of
an entire lighthouse that at one time stood at the center of a hill overlooking the ocean and the bay at Tokeland.
Tokeland as the seagull flies is less than 5 miles from Goose Point/Bay Center but almost 40
to get there by automobile.
The light station progressively moved further and further toward the water at the edge of the
hill as corrosion depleted the soil. Eventually the station was hanging over the edge so precariously that engineers had to
destroy it with explosive charges for safety reasons.
That was more than 65 years ago - before we knew what we were doing by spewing crap into the
So what does Al Gore's message mean to Bay Center coastal creatures like me?
Well, it means immediate and more frequent storms bringing bigger waves, greater road damage
from blown-down trees and more soft spot collapses on the roads, bluffs and coastlines.
reworking roofs, knocking down old dying houses and replacing them perhaps with brick and concrete.Our shallow water
seafood farmers may find themselves engaged permanently in a need to manage a probable cyclical expansion of Spartina as well
as the increasingly frequent episodes of pollution's impact on coastal ecology and economy.
Photo is mine
|Science types used to talk about El Nino raising the sea level for months
at a time as well as temporarily altering wind and wave directions - all just periodic events that would eventually
Now, perhaps with or without any solitary influence of El Nino, it looks like we might be in
for higher sea levels coupled with weather fluctuations that prompt permanent changes in weather, topography and human thinking.
Now we move from somewhat domestic trivial concerns about not installing fragile decorative
landscaping to the idea perhaps of elevating existing homes onto stilts,
predict climate warming in the future to likely raise global sea levels from 4 to 35 inches in the 21st century, as opposed
to the 4 to 8 inch rise of the 20th century.
Mechanical treatment of Spartina meadow,Willap Bay, 2003
Photo Wa DNR
Regional differences in ocean circulation and heat content may result in a larger sea-level
rise on the Pacific than the Atlantic coast of North America.
Then there is the idea that although we can't feel it, the earth moves under our feet. It's
called uplift or subsidence (sinking) of the land surface itself.
The major uplifting terrains in the Northwest are at the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca
which rises one tenth of an inch per year.
The other is some 40 miles south of Bay Center at the mouth of the Columbia River. The earth
rises there only slightly more than half an inch yearly.
That means that low-lying settlements and harbors will be at an ever-increasing risks, especially
as risk is exacerbated by increasingly larger storms.
That of course means more and more loss of coastline to erosion and directional changes of sediment
flows that restructure the shape of the coast line. Similar problems are consequences impacted by fluctuation in ocean stream's
When meaner winter storms and heavier rains soak into the soil we'll suffer more and more land
and mud slides and flooding with resulting troubles on bluffs, beach fronts as well as farms and homes along rivers.
Oh, and temperature and other changes also mean that other growing things not normally found
this far north on the Pacific Coast could drift this way, stake out a claim on life and begin homesteading where they ain't
wanted; crowding out what is wanted.
... Or worse, crowding out and contaminating our natural harvestable friends out here in our
Ever heard of the European Green Crab? Look it up.
European green crabs in their natural habitat are smaller than those in invaded habitat
- Jeff Goddard
University of California, Santa Barbara DOI. USGS. Western Ecological Research Center.
Now it is true that warmer summers might mean longer tourist seasons. Hell, if the water warms
up enough we'll have a North Pacific Waikiki Beach, complete with big surf and big surfers, right?
Tourism might bloom, but for those heritage and culture-based dwellers who've been here for
generations - who haven't necessarily been interested in tourist trapping - folks may have to start trapping them there tourists
anyway just to survive.
Closer to reality, if it warms up enough, canneries might move on, leaving cannery-supported
family incomes stranded.
Expensive homes drive up prices - great!
But expensive homes don't bring family shopping centers. No Target Stores or JC Penny - more
like Lord and Taylor.
If the cannery job is lost, even if your house is paid for, who will pay those new higher property
So much for staying on the old homestead where families have laughed and wept for generations.
What to do in anticipation?
Well, I have to go to work right now, so the rest of my story will have to be next time.
© Arthur Ruger 2007