State of the Beach/State Reports/CT/Shoreline Structures

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Connecticut Ratings
Indicator Type Information Status
Beach Access96
Water Quality95
Beach Erosion5-
Erosion Response-5
Beach Fill5-
Shoreline Structures 5 5
Beach Ecology5-
Surfing Areas--
Coastal Development{{{19}}}{{{20}}}
Sea Level Rise{{{21}}}{{{22}}}


Shoreline structures are permitted in accordance to Connecticut’s Coastal Management Act. The Act requires adverse impacts of erosion and sedimentation to be avoided and nonstructural solutions should be exhausted before structural solutions are used.

The Connecticut Coastal Management Act includes the following state resource policies regarding coastal hazard areas:

  • To promote nonstructural solutions to flood and erosion problems except in those instances where structural alternatives prove unavoidable and necessary to protect existing inhabited structures, infrastructural facilities or water dependent uses.
  • To maintain the natural relationship between eroding and depositional coastal landforms.
  • To minimize the adverse impacts of erosion and sedimentation on coastal land uses through the promotion of nonstructural mitigation measures.

Structural solutions are permissible when necessary and unavoidable for the protection of infrastructural facilities, water-dependent uses, or existing inhabited structures, and where there is no feasible, less environmentally damaging alternative and where all reasonable mitigation measures and techniques have been provided to minimize adverse environmental impacts.

The Coastal Management Manual was developed as a tool for coastal land use agents, boards and commissions, as well as developers, consultants and individuals, to use in understanding how to apply the standards and policies of the Connecticut Coastal Management Act. The manual replaces the Coastal Policies and Use Guidelines (a.k.a. Planning Report #30) which was published by the Department of Environmental Protection's Coastal Area Management Program in December 1979. Section 5 of the Coastal Management Manual is the Coastal Management Act, which has a Reference Guide to Coastal Policies and Definitions that summarizes policies relating to "beaches & dunes", "bluffs & escarpments", and "coastal hazard area."

In 2012, after much contentious debate, legislation was passed to minimize “shoreline armoring” in favor of "feasible, less environmentally damaging alternatives." Structures allowed to have seawalls were increased as part of the tradeoff. In 2013, in an equally contentious standoff, legislation passed allowing an easier path to upgrade seawalls, though it fell far short of an initial proposal that would have lifted most seawall restrictions.


An inventory of shoreline armoring structures currently exists, but not in a format that is easily accessible by the general public. It includes numerous types of armoring structures: groins, jetties, seawalls, bulkheads, riprap, and revetments, mostly small individual structures. The Army Corps of Engineers conducted the inventory as a 3-year, 3-part planning study. Staff walked the coast, documenting and photographing structures. Photos of the structures exist only in hard copy, and a few bound copies are available for the public to view at the Office of Long Island Sound Programs. There are plans to put this data into a more usable GIS format.

An authorized seawall was built in the 1980s along Nathan Hale Park, adjacent to the north end of Morris Cove in New Haven. In 2013 the city was preparing a proposal for a seawall adjacent to the Nathan Hale Park seawall to protect homes and was looking for the $2 million it figures to cost.

On the other hand, the Connecticut Supreme Court issued a decision upholding an enforcement order issued in 2006 by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP, now DEEP) against David and Betsey Sams of Old Saybrook. The decision, published April 30, 2013, sustains an order requiring removal of a massive 260-foot long gabion seawall built in 2004 without any state or municipal authorization.

Some planned "shoreline protection" projects involving beach fill may include the addition of stone groins designed to help hold the sand in place. One such location is at Hammonasset Beach State Park. At Gulf Beach in Milford, a stone groin has been accumulating sand that the city is trying to move to eroded areas.

Additional information on "shoreline protection" projects in Connecticut is available on the Website of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District. See the Connecticut Update Report.

The Fiscal Year 2017 Civil Works Budget for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provides $4.62 billion in gross discretionary funding for the Civil Works program. This budget lists proposed projects and the associated budget justification by state.


Office of Long Island Sound Programs
Bureau of Water Protection and Land Reuse
Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
79 Elm Street
Hartford, CT 06106-5127
Phone: 860-424-3034

Perception of Effectiveness

See the comments in the inventory section

Public Education Program

Although beach erosion and coastal hazard issues are generally not a high priority in Connecticut, DEEP does have some useful information in the Living on the Shore/Shoreline Protection and Living on the Shore/What You Can Do sections of their website.

State of the Beach Report: Connecticut
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