FWP to Add Additional Gravel Beach to Prevent Shoreline Erosion at New State Park

The work will dissipate wave action that leads to shoreline erosion and minimize recreational impacts to Somers Beach State Park

By Micah Drew
A man wades into the shallow waters of Somers Beach State Park on the north shore of Flathead Lake. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The Flathead County commissioners at their March 5 meeting approved a major lakeshore variance to allow Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks (FWP) to conduct a second phase of work on the new Somers Beach State Park to prevent shoreline erosion.

Since the newest state park was designated in 2021, agency officials have gone through extensive public review processes to determine how best to develop the area, both to maximize recreational opportunities and to preserve the environment.

One initial project was the installation of a 6,000-foot-long dynamic equilibrium gravel beach system, which is designed to mitigate and repair shoreline erosion that has occurred due to decades of dam operations. The first phase of the dynamic equilibrium beach was carried out in 2022 and since its completion, FWP has reported a total of .7 acres of new aquatic and wetland communities regenerated due to the effectiveness of the gravel beach.

The second phase of the erosion prevention project will cover 922 feet of shoreline, with some overlap of the original gravel beach.  

“The design objective was to create a beach that could fully accommodate wave breaking and swash runup during full pool lake levels and be wide enough so that visitors could sit on a log at the beach and watch the storm,” according to the application.

The rockfill installed in this process forces waves to break further offshore, dissipating wave energy and velocity that typically leads to shoreline erosion. The unmitigated portion of Somers Beach State Park is the last remaining shoreline that continues to erode at a rate of approximately one meter per year due to the dam-controlled lake’s 10-foot annual variance, according to an environmental assessment. Gravel beach construction has been successfully used around Flathead Lake as a solution to address shoreline erosion for more than 30 years. 

On the recreational side, FWP’s development plan for the park includes day-use amenities, such as trails, picnic areas, and a hand launch area for boats, as well as overnight lodging opportunity with three rental cabins.

The development of Somers Beach State Park received positive feedback from the governor’s office and funding during the 2023 legislative session. Work on the gravel beach is expected to be completed by mid-April.

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