State of the Beach/State Reports/DE

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Delaware began using EPA water quality criteria in 2001 and officially adopted the criteria in 2002. The state's beach access information and facilities are good, despite the fact that significant portions of both the oceanfront and Delaware Bay shoreline are privately owned. Approximately half the oceanfront shoreline is owned by the State, and about 90% is publically accessible. A significant portion of the Delaware Bay shoreline is owned by conservation groups, the State, or Federal government. DNREC maintains a database of structures and has strict regulations which govern construction on ocean and bay beaches, under Delaware’s Beach Preservation Act. More information about this permitting program can be found online.

Delaware Ratings


(+) Delaware has been proactive in addressing sea level rise in light of climate change. The Sea Level Rise Advisory Committee has produced a Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Assessment, followed by an adaptation plan which includes recommendations for government agencies and private parties to prepare for and respond to sea level rise. The vulnerability assessment is thorough in identifying the relative risk of statewide resources, and the recommendations are clear and practical.

(+) Regulations on shoreline stabilization structures do well to limit unnecessary hardening of the shoreline and encourages alternative methods such as relocation and replacement as part of the required permitting process.

(+) The report The State of Surfing in Delaware was an attempt by the Delaware Chapter of Surfrider Foundation to objectively quantify the changes in surfing opportunities in Delaware.

(+) On June 4, 2009, Mid-Atlantic Governors signed an interstate agreement committing to improve the health of the Atlantic Ocean. Governors from New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia are creating a structure for the States to work together on: development of offshore renewable energy; increased protection of the most unique and sensitive offshore habitats; improved energy security and independence in the region; climate change and sea level rise; and, increased federal support for water quality infrastructure improvements. The agreement will create a Governors Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean to continue advocacy for and leveraging of greater state influence on the management of offshore ocean areas and to direct federal and interstate actions and resources.

(+) In 2008 more than 450 people participated in Delaware’s annual beach grass planting event and planted about 95,000 stems of grass along three miles of coastline between Fenwick Island State Park and Lewes Beach.

(+) A newly updated and expanded edition of Striking a Balance: A Guide to Coastal Dynamics and Beach Management in Delaware, took top honors in the educational brochures category of the 2005 Communicator Awards.

(+) There is one public access site for about every 1.5 miles of shoreline.

(0) 99% of Delaware’s ocean beaches are experiencing coastal erosion.

(0) More than 57 million people are less than a day's drive from Delaware's 25 miles of sandy beaches.

(0) More than 6 million people visit the Delaware coast each year.

(0) From 1988 to 1994, eighteen fill projects placed an annual average of 329,000 cubic yards of sand on the beach. The average annual cost was $1.8 million.

(-) The building line used in coastal construction that prevents development on sand dunes and beaches is outdated, having not been updated since it was set in 1979. Many houses now extend past the building line: therefore, the line does not adequately protect natural resources such as dunes.

(-) The City of Rehoboth Beach is planning to construct an ocean outfall pipe for discharge of treated sewage about one mile offshore from the city. More info. UPDATE: In January 2015 Rehoboth Beach Mayor Sam Cooper announced that the city's controversial ocean outfall project had been approved. A completion date of June 1, 2018, has been set. Cooper said a long-delayed approval of the city's environmental impact statement, sitting for about two years on the desk of the secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, has now been approved.

(-) Since 1990, about 84,000 new homes have been built statewide and about 100,000 more homes are planned, severely taxing this small state's ecosystems and infrastructure.

(-) Substantial federal budget cuts to NOAA have resulted in a cut of approximately $400,000 in Delaware's Coastal Management Program and reductions in the amount of dollars they are able to pass through to other organizations to do coastal management work.


  • Mid-Atlantic Regional Ocean Planning We are pleased to announce that on December 7, 2016, the National Ocean Council certified the Mid-Atlantic Regional Ocean Plan, launching us headlong into a more sustainable future and a paradigm shift in ocean management that looks at the ocean holistically as a system, rather than managing piecemeal by agency, spatial boundary, specific use, threat or species. Learn more by reading (and sharing!) our Coastal Blog. Now that the ocean plan is final, the Surfrider Foundation will engage in the vital work of implementation. Our staff and volunteers will continue to participate in ocean planning meetings to improve the iterative plan so that it best represents our goals in protecting the ocean and coastal ecosystems, and recreational areas. We'll be calling upon our ocean industry leader friends - surf shop owners, kayak tour guides, beachside pub and restaurant owners, SUP racers and the like - to help us engage locally as federal and state agencies begin to fully utilize the best practices established in the plan, and integrate the inherent expertise of our coastal communities and ocean users into decision-making processes that will inform the future of the sea.
  • Vehicle Access Restricted Near Naval Jetty in Cape Henlopen State Park Driving on the beach and fishing from your vehicle is allowed in Cape Henlopen State Park, but one must be actively fishing. Increasingly, beach-goers were driving down to the beach and throwing an empty line into the water, just to avoid walking down to the beach. These lines are crowding out other forms of recreation including surfing, swimming, and skim-boarding. In the Autumn of 2013 the Delaware Chapter wrote to the State's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and requested that the State not allow vehicles and therefore "fake fishing" within 40 meters of the Naval Jetty Groin. The State had meetings and discussions through the winter and responded in writing to the Chapter. They declared that an area just north of the Naval Jetty would be a safety zone where vehicles would be excluded. Pedestrians and all forms of recreation would still be allowed in the vehicle-free area, but this should address the issue of "fake fishing" to avoid walking and overcrowded beach areas.
  • Prevention of Shoreline Structure Expansion at Herring Point, DE The Delaware; Ocean City, Maryland; and Capitol Chapters worked together to prevent the expansion of an existing groin or construction of new structures to address erosion at Herring Point in Cape Henlopen State Park. The surf and other natural resources at this location draw thousands from throughout the region. The chapters' position on this issue is explained here.
  • Year Round Water Quality Testing in Delaware The Delaware Chapter is working in conjunction with the DNREC to expand their beach monitoring program beyond the normal tourist season to year-round testing. The chapter is assisting with this effort by collecting the samples. More info.
  • Surfing Only Beach At the request of the Delaware Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, Mayor Sam Cooper and the City Council of Rehoboth Beach unanimously approved designating the beach at the north end of the City Limits of Rehoboth as a "Surfing Only Beach".

To see all of Surfrider Foundation's coastal victories and campaigns, go here.

State of the Beach Report: Delaware
Delaware Home Beach Description Beach Access Water Quality Beach Erosion Erosion Response Beach Fill Shoreline Structures Beach Ecology Surfing Areas Website
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