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Coastal Erosion

Coastal erosion is a natural process that continually affects the Oregon coast. Erosion becomes a hazard when human development or public safety is threatened. Beaches, sand spits, dunes, and bluffs are constantly affected by waves, currents, tides, and storms, resulting in chronic erosion, landslides, and flooding. Changes may be gradual over a season or many years. Changes may also be drastic, occurring during the course of a single storm event. Erosion may be caused by large waves, storm surges, rip cell embayments, high winds, rain, runoff, flooding, or increased water levels and ocean conditions caused by periodic El Ninos. Coastal dunes and bluffs comprised of uplifted marine terrace deposits are especially vulnerable to chronic and catastrophic erosion. Coastal erosion processes create special challenges for people living near the ocean, requiring thoughtful planning in order to minimize the potential dangers to life and property. Attempts to stabilize the shoreline or beach are often futile, because the forces that shape the coast are persistent and powerful. Poor understanding of a coastal system can result in dramatic problems, such as those documented in the story of Bayocean Spit (Oregon Coastal Atlas).

Although land-use management practices are preferred over structural solutions, shore protection structures are sometimes necessary. Cities and counties must address natural coastal hazards in their comprehensive plans.


If you live on the Oregon coast, you can generate a report of known coastal erosion for where you live by using the Oregon Hazards Reporter.

The Oregon Coastal Management Program works in partnership with local, state and federal agencies, and other stakeholders to ensure that coastal and ocean resources are managed according to statewide planning goals.


Oregon Coastal Management Program. Shoreland Processes and Hazards. [Accessed June 12, 2009]

Oregon Coastal Atlas. Coastal Erosion. [Accessed June 30, 2009]

Image source: Oregon Coastal Management System