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Coastal Monitoring & Analysis Program projects

Our Coastal Monitoring & Analysis Program (CMAP) conducts surveys to map and monitor Washington's marine coastline. Each project has a different purpose, ranging from developing mapping baselines for our coastal shorelines and the sea floor to repeated monitoring of specific areas track changes in coastal morphology through time.

Here is a look at some of the past and current projects that we are involved with around the state:

A diagram showing sediment dispersing primarily northward along the shore within the Columbia River Littoral Cell from south of the mouth of the Columbia river north to just beyond Grays Harbor.

Columbia River Littoral Cell beach monitoring

CMAP partners with other coastal scientists from Oregon to survey the beaches of the Columbia River Littoral Cell, or CRLC, every three months. In addition, we work with Oregon State University and the U.S. Geological Survey to collect nearshore bathymetry data each summer. This seasonal monitoring program started in 1997, resulting in over 20 years of data! These data show us how the beaches of southwest Washington and northwest Oregon have been changing over time.
The research vessel George Davidson surveys the water just off of a rocky shoreline

Mapping Puget Sound bluffs and beaches

As part of an Estuary Salmon Restoration Program (ESRP) learning project, boat-based lidar data were collected at 16 sites around the Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca, spanning 220 km of shoreline and over two dozen drift cells. These data were used to produce high-resolution coastal topographic digital elevation models (DEMs) of beaches and bluffs. The lidar data can also be used to measure detailed aspects of the landscape, such as how much large woody debris or overhanging vegetation is present on a beach, providing a measurement of the habitat available for forage fish.

An ATV driving on a beach at low tide.

Shoalwater Bay berm monitoring

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers funded Ecology's Coastal Monitoring & Analysis Program (CMAP)​ to conduct a series of surveys of the beach and nearshore along Graveyard and Empire Spits on the north shore of Willapa Bay in an effort to monitor how a 2.5 km-long constructed berm, built by the Corps in 2012 for flood protection, changed over time.
CMAP scientist walks along the Elwha River delta collecting elevation data with a GPS backpack.

Elwha River delta monitoring

Since 2007, CMAP has assisted the U.S. Geological Survey in collecting beach and nearshore elevation data of the Elwha River delta in northwest Washington in order to monitor physical changes of the river mouth and measure sediment accumulation following the largest dam removal in U.S. history. The influx of sediment has significantly built up the delta and greatly reduced erosion along the adjacent shoreline, in addition to creating new habitat for fish, birds, crab, and many other species.
A computer simulated image from a Lidar point cloud of a steep, exposed bluff with trees on the top, and the beach below

Clallam County bluff erosion monitoring

With funding from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) through the Coastal Watersheds Institute, we collected high-resolution, boat-based lidar data of the Dungeness and Elwha bluffs three times in 2012 and 2013. In summer 2015, we resurveyed the Dungeness bluffs with funding from the Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program (ESRP). Repeat surveys enable us to measure the amount of bluff erosion that occurs as well as where on the bluff face the erosion takes place. This data is important in understanding the details of bluff erosion processes and timescales so that we can better identify potential hazards to infrastructure over time.