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Analysis of coastal changes along the New River Spit, Bandon Littoral Cell, relevant to an adjustment of the Statutory Vegetation Line on the south coast of Oregon Public Deposited

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  • Among Oregon's major tourist attractions is the State's beautiful and impressive coastal scenery. Sandy beaches, usually backed by sea-cliffs or dune fields, are regularly disrupted either by the mouths of shallow bays and estuaries, or by massive rocky headlands extending hundreds of meters into the Pacific Ocean. Storm-generated waves, tides, and coastal winds are counted among the many factors that constantly change the shoreline, reshape the beaches, erode the cliffs, generate dunes and form sand spits. The thousands of tourists who visit the coast each year have the opportunity to enjoy hiking, surfing or simply walking on the beach, thanks to the State's policies and regulations adopted to provide the public with access and use of Oregon's diverse coastal natural and scenic resources. The concept of having a public easement along the coastline was first introduced by the Oregon State Senate one-hundred years ago. The 1899 General Laws of Oregon declared the coastal beaches in Clatsop County a "public highway", while the 1913 Beach Bill extended the concept from the mouth of the Columbia River south to the California border. Both laws identified the public right of use only within the tidal portion of the beach, excluding the adjoining dry sand area. The 1913 bill also recognized that the State had already sold sections of the coast to private ownership: Of the 400 km of usable beach along Oregon's 570 km coastline, 190 km are privately owned. Thus, public and private rights over Oregon beaches have been in constant dispute ever since. In an attempt to resolve such problems, the State Senate convened in 1967 to create a new Beach Bill which would ensure those owning beach-front property the rights of private ownership, and at the same time preserve for the public as much of the beach as possible for their use and enjoyment [55th Legislative Assembly, 1969]. Thus, the 54th Legislative Assembly in 1967 created a Statutory Vegetation Line (SVL) to represent the landward limit of the beach zone, open to the public. Location of the SVL or beach zone line was originally established by the 16-foot elevation contour but became subject to much controversy, thus this criteria was analyzed and the SVL was redefined to be formed by a series of straight lines connecting a set of points defined within the Oregon Coordinate System [ORS 093.330], which at the time of the surveys, coincided approximately with the actual line of vegetation [ORS 390.770]. This new beach zone line, located slightly landward from the previous one, was enacted by the 55th Legislature Assembly and became law in 1969. However, far from halting disputes, the location and criteria established to define the SVL provided the ground for new problems; this study serves as an example to illustrate such continued conflicts.
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