The Impacts of Coastal Protection Structures in California's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary


Rebecca Stamski
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Monterey, CA

This report outlines the potential impacts of coastal protection structures on the resources of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. At least 15 miles of the Sanctuary's 300-mile shoreline are currently armored with seawalls and riprap revetments. Most of these coastal protection structures are placed above the mean high tide line, the official boundary of the Sanctuary, yet some influences of armoring impinge on the marine realm and on recreational use.

In addition, continued sea level rise and accompanying coastal retreat will force many of these structures below the high tide line over time. The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary staff has recognized the significance of coastal armoring, identifying it as a critical issue in the Coastal Armoring Action Plan of the draft Joint Management Plan.

This summary is intended to provide general background information for Sanctuary policies on coastal armoring. The impacts discussed include: aesthetic depreciation, beach loss due to placement, access restriction, loss of sand supply from eroding cliffs, passive erosion, and active erosion. In addition, the potential biological impacts are explored. Finally, an appraisal of how differing armor types compare in relation to impacts, expense and engineering is presented.

While the literature cited in this report focus predominantly on the California coast, the framework for this discussion could have implications for other actively eroding coastlines.

Key Words: Coastal erosion, armoring, coastal protection structures, seawall, riprap revetment, geology, sanctuary, California, Monterey Bay

Citation: Stamski, Rebecca. 2005. The impacts of coastal protection structures in California's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Marine Sanctuaries Conservation Series MSD-05-3. U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Marine Sanctuaries Division, Silver Spring, MD. 18 pp.