A Line in the Sand: Beach Preservation
Delaware's Beach Preservation Act of 1972 serves as an acknowledgement that humans have been infringing on natural habitat which has led to negative impacts, such as erosion and loss of storm protection. The purpose of this act is to enhance, preserve, and protect the beaches of the state and minimize impacts from development.
Limiting Construction on the Coastline
Coastal development adds stress to beach systems, especially to the dunes because it interrupts the normal sand migration patterns. Dunes are sand storage areas that help protect the beach during storms. The developed structures on the coast often rely on the protection of the dunes to prevent property damage and health and safety risks. Increased erosion and vulnerability of the beaches may cause impacts to the economy, residents, businesses, and state and local governments. To ensure that beaches and dunes are able to perform their protective and recreational functions, construction must be kept off them.
Maintaining the Beaches
To enable beaches to continue to provide protection and recreation, DNREC works to manage eroding beaches to enable continued protective and recreational use through science-based dune and beach management practices, such as beach nourishment, planting beach grass to promote dune growth, and fencing dunes to protect them from pedestrian traffic. Historically, other methods of armoring the shores have been utilized in an attempt to stabilize the coast. Hard structures like groins and jetties obstruct the natural sand transport processes. While they may aid in the protection of one specific area, they worsen erosion in other areas and still require additional sand resources to fully maintain the beach.
Delaware first began protecting its coasts with hard structures in 1898 with the construction of the first breakwaters. However, in recent decades, other methods of restoration or nourishment have been used, which physically add sand to the system to elevate and widen the beaches. Adding sand to the system allows for a wider recreational beach that also offers storm protection. Beginning in 1940, the graph below illustrates the shift from hard structure projects to beach nourishment projects. The large spike at 1962 reflects the impact of the "Ash Wednesday Storm" that year, which is still regarded as one of the most destructive storms ever to hit Delaware.
Changes in Nourishment Practices
Rehoboth Beach - 1962
Rehoboth Beach - Pre-2005
Rehoboth Beach - Post-2005
The beachscape of Delaware's first resort town, Rehoboth, has changed a lot over the years. Since being devastated by a coastal storm in 1962, beach nourishment activities have been conducted in Rehoboth on a fairly regular basis. A major project to widen the beach and create a protective dune took place in 2005. Nourishment projects can be funded through state and federal sources due to the magnitude of their impact on the tourism economy and the safety of coastal residents and businesses. Keep in mind, different projects at different times have different needs.
Page reviewed 3/6/19