Year in review: Birch Bay Steering Committee

By Kathy Berg

Whatcom County Public Works has announced that it is on schedule to begin construction in fall 2016 on the Birch Bay Drive and Pedestrian Facility Project (the berm).

This project is the single most important capital improvement/implementation project for Birch Bay, to restore 1.5 miles of the shoreline to natural conditions and functions, provide protection to public and private property and allow public access to the shoreline. Wolf Bauer originally suggested the project to the Whatcom County Planning Commission in 1975, which was then involved in a robust public process from 2000 to 2004 by the Birch Bay Steering Committee until it was adopted by the Whatcom County Council in 2004.

Bauer (born 1912) retired at age 63 from a productive career designing factories, and became a self-taught shoreline consultant. As a self-taught, self-described “hydro-geologist,” he changed conventional thinking about how moving water affects the land. He believed artificial barriers such as bulkheads eroded beaches, while porosity, usually in the form of added gravel, could save them. His ideas were eventually applied to a dozen beaches in Seattle and nearly 20 more elsewhere around Puget Sound. It was, he said, “always a fight against the bulkheads” – a fight he often won.

“Those values which people of the future will prize most highly, namely those found in the natural scene, are yet retrievable here by giving nature a second chance,” Bauer said in the 1975 Shore Resource Analysis – Birch Bay.

For more detailed information on this project, go to the Birch Bay Drive and Pedestrian Facility Project – Berm page at or the Whatcom County Public Works webpage at

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