Oceanfront homes threatened

An excavator rebuilds a 40-foot cliff lost to the recent “king tides” in Gleneden Beach, where four oceanfront homes were left dangerously perched on the ragged edge. (Photos by Rick Beasley)

Emergency work permit granted

GLENEDEN BEACH — State parks officials last week issued an emergency work permit in an effort to save four oceanfront homes that are teetering on the wave-battered remains of a 70-foot cliff.

Morris Excavation of Lincoln City is conducting the work, which called for the contractor to build a 300-foot gravel road across the beach near the Laurel Street state beach access to reach the homes located in the 7000 block of Sijota Avenue.

Owner and backhoe operator Adam Morris said the problem began three weeks ago during a period of “king tides,” when offshore waves reached 30 feet, pummeling the Oregon coastline.

“We’re back-filling material that was carved out of the seawall by huge waves, and hopefully we can save these beautiful homes,” said Morris of work that is expected to last a month.

The repairs were authorized in an emergency permit issued by the Oregon Parks Department on Jan. 27. Officials with the Oregon Department of Geology and Minerals (DOGAMI) concurred with the decision to OK the work, which is typically subjected to a two-month application process and several months of geological study and engineering.

Designing the fix is a Portland company that specializes in saving oceanfront homes, H.G. Schlicker & Associates. A statement issued by the company said the Gleneden Beach area is “subject to active erosion and impacts from rip currents.”

Jason Thomas, of Salmon River Contractors, was called in to help at the job site and asserted it is one of the largest cliff recoveries he has seen on the central coast. He said climate change threatens densely populated oceanfront neighborhoods.

“As we all know, rising sea levels and stronger, more unpredictable weather patterns are upon us,” he commented. “Storm surges and accelerating wave heights have increased the severity of erosion each year and has led to more need for shoreline protection.”

Neighbors were awed by the sudden arrival of equipment and road building, which has already used an estimated 300 tons of rock and gravel, with “riprap” stones yet to be installed at the foot of the cliff.

“I’ve lived here for 40 years and never seen anything like it,” commented nearby resident Kent Stevens. “It’s turned the whole beach into a rock quarry.”

In 2004, a homeowner at nearby Fishing Rock State Wayside saved his home by moving it after Lincoln County Commissioners opposed an application for riprap. In 2006, a pair of homes on a 60-foot bluff in Gleneden Beach were issued a last-minute riprap permit and were saved by 1,000 truckloads of rock.

The costs of cliff protection add up quickly under Oregon’s prickly 1972 Beach Law. To meet state guidelines, property owners often hire a cast of subcontractors, including land surveyors, excavators, landscapers, signmakers, geologists, archeologists and sometimes a Ph.D. or other state-required expert to monitor the final construction.

Morris said the road will be removed after the repairs are complete.

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