An excavator removes concrete blocks that armor a beach on McNeil Island in south Puget Sound on Tuesday. CREDIT: DORIS SMALL / WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Homeowners keep building walls around Puget Sound. Biologists are taking out more

Puget Sound has started getting healthier, at least by one measure: A little less of its shoreline is buried under walls of concrete and rock.

Biologists have long pointed to seawalls, bulkheads and other protective structures known as “shoreline armoring” as a major environmental problem for Puget Sound.

More than 660 miles, or about 29 percent, of the sound’s shoreline have been walled off over the decades, according to the Puget Sound Partnership, a state agency.

Much more of the shore has been hardened in urban regions: Three quarters of King County’s shores and half of Pierce County’s have been armored.

Efforts to remove armoring and restore more natural seaside habitats have had a hard time catching up to waterfront homeowners’ ongoing construction of new armor.

Research by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife shows that single-family homeowners have built 68 percent of the armoring around Puget Sound over the past decade. Half the shoreline losses have been concentrated in just three counties: Mason, Island and Kitsap.

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