Bluff slides near Langley waterfront residence

Langley lost some square footage this weekend.

Langley lost some square footage this weekend.

According to South Whidbey Fire/EMS, a large landslide occurred Saturday evening, a mere 40 yards away from a waterfront home located near Noblecliff Place. At least three large trees were involved in the slide, which tumbled down a 100-foot cliff before coming to a rest near a narrow beach.

The city’s notoriously sandy bluffs are known for slippage. Earlier this month, Mayor Scott Chaplin pointed to some bluff erosion near First Street on city-owned property as an area of concern.

Saturday’s event left behind some remaining trees with exposed roots that also could be vulnerable to sliding. Terry Ney, the deputy chief of operations for the fire district, estimated one of those trees to be at least 36 inches in diameter.

No structures were damaged nor people injured from the slide.

Ney said the property owners could consider using artificial barriers or deep-rooted plants to help hold soil in place, but another slide in the area is likely inevitable.

The county Department of Emergency Management was notified about Saturday’s slide.

The Langley mayor reported viewing the aftermath of the slide from his boat near the South Whidbey Harbor over the weekend.

“Whoever lived there, I would be very nervous to be near the end of their property line,” Chaplin observed. “It’s a very steep drop-off.”

At lower tides, beach walkers have accessed the slim strip of coastline near where the slide occurred.

Chaplin said he would like the city to take a comprehensive look at all shoreline areas in Langley.

According to Jesse Brighten, a South Whidbey arborist, landslides like the ones in Langley can be exacerbated by improper vegetation management on the bluffs. When trees are cut down for a better view, for example, this contributes to the destabilization of soils.

Vegetation, like trees, also helps manage water runoff. The recent slides happening around Langley were likely due to the cold, wet spring that soaked soils. As Chaplin pointed out, the city has feeder bluffs, and the erosion occurring is a natural and expected process.

Brighten agreed that the area of the slide that happened Saturday has been a complex situation for slope stability.

For areas that may be susceptible to slides, he recommended employing the use of native plants, which can help slow water runoff with their deep root systems.

“Where possible, always preserve and utilize native plants,” he said.

An earlier version of this story contained a misspelled name. It has since been updated with the correct spelling.