Kirkland has become the first city in the state to partner with Washington Sea Grant in its new Green Shores for Homes (GSH) initiative, aimed at helping homeowners restore their shorelines by getting rid of bulkheads and installing environmentally friendly habitats.
Washington Sea Grant Coastal Management Specialist Nicole Faghin said the bulkheads, which have the appearance of retaining walls, can cause starvation of the habitat. She added that property owners have also had issues with bulkhead erosion, causing frustration on their end. She sees the GSH program as a “win-win” solution for property owners and shoreline sustainability.
“Ninety percent of (Lake Washington) has bulkheads,” Faghin said of the properties surrounding the lake.
One of the first residents to take advantage of the program is Pam Bendich, whose home is located on the Lake Washington shore in Kirkland.
“We used this as our petrie dish, so to speak,” Faghin said.
Paul Broadhurst of Broadhurst and Associates served as the designer for the project and used abstract artist Wassily Kandinsky’s “Composition VIII” as the inspiration for remodeling the backyard and the shoreline.
“I was blessed to have a creative client,” he said of Bendich. “We had an opportunity here.”
The Bendich property’s 150-foot concrete bulkhead was removed, and 85 feet were replaced with boulders. The backyard was then resloped and revegetated with native plants; Broadhurst said about 95 percent of the plants in the new backyard are native.
The shoreline was recontoured with a mix of cobble and gravel. The top gravel layer is meant to enhance the shallow water habitat for salmon.
These kinds of updates are key parts of the GSH program, which is meant to encourage those with waterfront property across Washington state to make environmental sustainability a key factor in remodeling plans.
“We want people to realize their shorelines could look like this,” Faghin said.
The partnership with the City of Kirkland allows homeowners to take advantage of incentives in the permitting process for following the GSH guidelines. Because this partnership is in place, any Kirkland property owners interested in participating the program can start by contacting either GSH staff of City of Kirkland Planning Department staff.
“We want to improve the shoreline and provide as much flexibility as possible for homeowners,” City of Kirkland planning director Eric Shields said of the city’s reasoning for getting involved with the GSH program. “We’re very happy to do this.”
So far, two Kirkland property owners have taken advantage of the program, and City of Kirkland Shoreline Planner Christian Geitz said the other homeowner is “just as happy as Pam is.”
Tools for homeowners to develop environmental, recreational, scenic and shoreline benefits on their property are available on the GSH website, greenshoresforhomes.org. Faghin said the program provides templates and other guidance for those who are interested in participating.