State of the Beach/State Reports/DE/Beach Description

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Delaware Ratings
Indicator Type Information Status
Beach Access77
Water Quality89
Beach Erosion7-
Erosion Response-5
Beach Fill7-
Shoreline Structures6 3
Beach Ecology6-
Surfing Areas45
Coastal Development{{{19}}}{{{20}}}
Sea Level Rise{{{21}}}{{{22}}}


Delaware's Atlantic coastline consists of a series of barrier beaches and dunes from Cape Henlopen to Fenwick Island. Nearly 25 miles of sandy beaches border the Atlantic Ocean. No part of the state is more than 8 miles from tidal waters.

Contact Info for the Lead Coastal Zone Management Agency

Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC)
Division of Soil and Water Conservation
Delaware Coastal Management Program
89 Kings Highway
Dover, DE 19901
Phone: (302) 739-9283

Sarah W. Cooksey, Program Administrator

Coastal Zone Management Program

The Delaware Coastal Management Program (DCMP) is a network of projects and employees throughout DNREC, working to manage the coastal zone and resolve conflicts related to coastal zone issues. The Delaware Coastal Programs are housed within the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control's Division of Soil and Water (DNREC/DSWC). The programs coordinate their efforts throughout DNREC and with many outside public and private organizations. They help protect the state's coastal environment against increasing pressures ranging from residential development to the competing demands of recreation and commerce on the state's waters. The DCMP, established in 1979, works to protect, develop, and, where possible, enhance the coastal resources of the state. It does this through the review of federal and state projects to ensure that they are consistent with state coastal policies. The DCMP also utilizes special area management planning, assistance to state and local governments for local land use planning, and other special on-the-ground projects related to Delaware's coastal resources.

House Bill 190, which would alter the 1971 Coastal Zone Act, passed the House 34-7 in June 2017. Backers say the proposal will boost the state’s economy, although opponents insist the measure concedes too much to business and could harm the environment. The Coastal Zone Act limits development and industrial activity along the coast: Currently, all industries not operating when the measure was passed 46 years ago are banned from the zone, which runs from the Delaware-Pennsylvania line north of Claymont to the Delaware-Maryland line south of Fenwick Island. The bill would create exemptions for the 14 sites in the coastal zone and allow the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to issue permits for other industries and bulk transfer facilities at the locations.

NOAA's latest evaluation of Delaware's Coastal Management Program can be found here. Delaware Coastal Zone Enhancement Program Assessment and Strategy (2016-2020) is a self-evaluation by DCMP/DNREC of their coastal management programs to assess significant changes in the state’s coastal resources and management practices, identify critical needs, and prioritize areas for enhancement.


  1. Bernd-Cohen, T. and M. Gordon. "State Coastal Program Effectiveness in Protecting Natural Beaches, Dunes, Bluffs, and Rock Shores." Coastal Management 27:187-217.
  2. Delaware Coastal Management Program.
  3. Bernd-Cohen, T. and M. Gordon. "State Coastal Program Effectiveness in Protecting Natural Beaches, Dunes, Bluffs, and Rock Shores." Coastal Management 27:187-217. 1999.

State of the Beach Report: Delaware
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