Coastal Erosion: An Introduction & Exploration of Nature-Based Solutions

Terri Thomas takes a question from the audience during a CCNB presentation on nature-based adaptations to sea level rise | post and photos by Jen Gennari
The students give an introduction to the concept, and the marine life to be found in Richardson Bay
The four ecology interns organize feedback from the audience
Audience concerns and hopes will be incorporated into next steps
The study area is north of Galilee Harbor and east of the Cruising Club. A man-made breakwater, designed by Clausen Engineering, can be seen in the middle of the map. Neither it, nor the nature-based solution, has funding

The night after a strong winter storm, two dozen people gathered at the Bay Model to hear and discuss the Conservation Corps North Bay’s presentation on natural ways to slow crashing waves that threaten our coast.

East Pier resident Terri Thomas, CCNB Director of Natural Resources and Climate Resiliency, introduced the Ecology Intern Crew, four students who are learning about and proposing a nature-based wave attenuator. The idea is a win-win—for both the marine and human lives in Richardson Bay.

The ecology interns talked about oysters, eelgrass, birds, and other marine life. Over-harvesting and loss of habitat have reduced the range of our only native oyster, the Olympia. Oysters are beneficial because they slow down currents, catch sediment and filter water as they feed. (We’ve written before about floating home residents who are restoring wild oysters.)

Eelgrass is also critical, the students reminded us. Eelgrass can slow erosion, prevent algae bloom, and host the eggs of herring. Herring (as well as eelgrass) are a vital food source for harbor seals and many birds. And Richardson Bay is an Important Bird Area, one of 148 nationwide designated sanctuaries for birds. Our 900-acre preserve hosts over 70 bird species, including the San Pablo song sparrow, which is only found here.

Funding for this CCNB exploration and education of a nature-based solution comes from the Marin Community Foundation and the Coastal Conservancy. Jonathan Goldman, Sausalito Director of Public Works, clarified that there is no funding to construct anything. The City had asked the engineering firm Clausen to develop a barrier plan to protect and reduce erosion of the shoreline at Dunphy Park. “We did not hire them to give a cost estimate,” Goldman said, although he noted that rising seas put the park at risk. “It is a coastal hazard zone with significant risk for wave height of more than three feet.”

A resident of Galilee Harbor said—after last night’s storm when many went ashore to watch a movie because they were too seasick—“ we have an intense interest in a wave attenuator.” Later, Kappas resident Carole Angermeier noted that it might be great to have one near our end of town, too.

There was not only strong support for a natural solution but also signage to educate and reconnect people with the bay. A member of the Friends of Dunphy Park said it should be a place to “have a relationship with the natural environment.”

David McGuire, director, Earth Island Institute, agreed. “We have an opportunity to have a beautiful conservation area,” he said, noting that Richardson Bay is a nursery habitat for sharks and important for halibut.

The meeting was well-attended with representatives from a number of organizations including Sausalito Beautiful, Friends of Dunphy Park, Clipper Yacht Club, Galilee Harbor, and Cass Gidley Community Boating Center.

Over the next six months, the CCNB intern crew will monitor the environment and meet with experts to learn more. The interns will draft concepts for a natural wave attenuator, which will be shared with the public, perhaps in the fall.