Oregon's dramatic and beautiful coastline is the result of dynamic, powerful, natural forces of weather, climate, ocean waves and currents, and plate tectonics. These forces continually shape the coast, creating an environment that is at once attractive and dangerous. Most development on the Oregon coast has taken place in less hazardous areas. New development is increasingly proposed for hazardous areas, such as steep slopes, ocean bluffs, landslide-prone sites, and low-lying areas subject to ocean flooding, coastal erosion, and tsunami inundation. People may purchase or occupy developments in hazard prone areas with no knowledge of the risk.
In addition, scientists are continually refining their understanding of the potentially catastrophic forces of earthquakes and tsunamis, as well as the more gradual effects of climate change. The vulnerability of coastal communities to chronic and catastrophic forces is a concern to those who live, work, and recreate in those communities, and to public officials responsible for community safety and well-being.
Oregon's statewide land use planning program requires local governments to plan for and make decisions that account for natural hazards known to be present in this active and dynamic environment. The Oregon Coastal Management Program (OCMP) provides resources (data, model codes, funding, etc.) for local governments, state agencies, homeowners, and others related to both chronic and catastrophic natural hazards. This page provides information about the state’s resources for coastal hazard planning and more information about the hazards themselves.
Also visit the Natural Hazards Planning pages to learn more about natural hazards and hazard mitigation in Oregon.
Cities and counties are required to account for areas subject to natural hazards in comprehensive plans and associated ordinances. On the coast, planning for coastal hazards is guided by Statewide Planning Goal 17: Coastal Shorelands; Goal 18: Beaches and Dunes; and Goal 7: Areas Subject to Natural Hazards. These goals require local governments to identify and plan for the dynamic and potentially hazardous nature of coastal areas, particularly along the ocean.
Ocean Shore Regulation
Oregon's ocean beaches are managed by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD). OPRD regulates many uses along the ocean shore, west of the statutory vegetation line, including shoreline armoring, stairways, and dune grading, under the authority of the "Beach Bill" enacted in 1967. A permit is required for any of these activities, known as an ocean shore alteration permit. This permit ensures that the activity complies with the applicable statewide planning goals and local land use planning program.
Tsunami Inundation Zones
Although they happen infrequently, tsunamis are a serious threat to the Oregon coast. The Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) has mapped tsunami inundation zones in coastal communities. The maps are used by local governments to identify evacuation routes and areas where the development of critical and essential facilities and major structures are restricted.
Find out more about how OCMP is assisting local communities in building their resilience to a local tsunami event: Tsunami Planning.
OCMP also works closely with the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) to provide accurate scientifically-based information. Below are some examples of resources local governments may be interested in using:
The Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) has completed detailed coastal erosion and hazard maps and analyses for the ocean shores of Clatsop, Tillamook, Lincoln, and portions of Curry and Coos Counties. The DOGAMI maps, overlaid on aerial photos, delineate areas of Active, High, Moderate, or Low hazard risk on the ocean shore. OCMP has developed a model ordinance for local governments that can be used in conjunction with the DOGAMI risk zone maps. This model code provides an innovative option for coastal hazards management within chronic coastal hazard erosion areas.
DOGAMI conducts beach and dune monitoring to show seasonal and year-to-year changes of shoreline profiles along the Oregon coast. This beach and shoreline observing network provides high-quality scientific information about changes to the beach that can be used by coastal managers, city and county planners, the geotechnical community, and the public-at-large to plan for shoreline change. This program is central to state efforts to understand the effects (erosion or accretion) of future storms, impacts from El Niño’s, and to predict long-term change.
Goal 18 limits construction of shoreline protective structures to development that existed prior to January 1, 1977. Because it is often difficult to determine whether a property was "developed" at that time, OCMP has developed a GIS-based tool to help local governments determine whether a parcel is eligible for shorefront protection. The tool is available online for the entire Oregon coast. Local jurisdictions may consider adopting the eligibility inventory into their land use program; OCMP staff can assist with this.
OCMP staff co-chairs the interagency "Coastal Processes and Hazards Working Group" (CPHWG) that focuses on shoreline hazards, threats to public facilities, and changing conditions due to climate change and sea level rise. The CPHWG is a coordination and outreach mechanism for local, state, and federal agencies, industry, and interest groups to share information across programs and projects. The CPHWG has produced two geologic guideline documents related to new development on oceanfront properties and shoreline protection structures.
OCMP and its partners conduct coastal hazard education and outreach efforts for the full range of chronic and catastrophic coastal hazards. Outreach techniques include publications, regional and local workshops, and video. OCMP and Oregon Sea Grant produced a DVD video called Living on the Edge, Buying and Building Property on the Oregon Coast. If you would like a copy, please email the Coastal Shores Specialist.
There is much to be done to reduce hazards to lives and development on the Oregon coast. OCMP staff will continue to work with individual cities and counties to increase understanding of coastal hazards and assist in utilizing all available tools in managing development in coastal areas. Please contact DLCD's Coastal Shores Specialist for more information.