Delaware’s Shoreline Management Strategy and Methodology
Jesse Hayden, PE
In the State of Delaware, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) is responsible for managing the shoreline along 26 miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline as well as 35 miles of Delaware Bay coastline. Over these lengths of coast, there exist a number of different shoreline features including spits, headlands, baymouth barriers, and inlets. Beach erosion has been an issue since widespread development along the coast began in the late 1800’s. Shoreline management methods to combat that erosion have evolved from the hard structure installation, like groins and revetments, to modern beach nourishment projects. For the past 13 years, DNREC has participated as the local sponsor of large scale beach nourishment projects with the US Army Corps of Engineers that take sand from offshore sites and place it on the beach. Though they only nourish 5 discrete locations, these projects have reversed the long-term shoreline recession trend for Delaware’s entire Atlantic coastline. In addition to the federal beach nourishment projects, the state also operates a sand bypass facility that mimics the natural flow of sand across the Indian River Inlet. On the Delaware Bay coast, where beaches are generally smaller and less popular for recreation, the state performs small scale beach nourishment projects that utilize sand from inland sources. Even though the current trend in beach management is soft solutions like beach nourishment, the state recognizes that hard structures can still play an important role in maintaining healthy beaches. Last year marked the 10-year anniversary of a successful project at Herring Point along Delaware’s Atlantic coastline where the careful implementation of groin repairs restored a wide beach for recreation and protected historical military structures. The state’s strategy for shoreline management will continue to evolve with the state of the art in the future. We are actively engaged in Regional Sediment Management initiatives that aim to consider the big picture of sediment supply and demand, including linking dredging projects that generate sand with beach nourishment projects that require sand.