State of the Beach/State Reports/DE/Beach Fill

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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}}}


State, Territory, and Commonwealth Beach Nourishment Programs, A National Overview (NOAA, March 2000) provides the following information:

"Policy Citation and Description

Regulations Governing Beach Protection and Use of Beaches. Part 4. Activities Requiring a Permit or Letter of Approval from the Division. 4.03: Construction of Beach Erosion Control/Shore Protection Structures/Facilities Seaward of the Building Line. A permit is required for beach nourishment projects. 4.07: Mitigating Measures. Allows beach nourishment to be used as a form of mitigation.

Division of Soil and Water Conservation: Shoreline and Waterway Management Section. Responsible for beach preservation projects, such as major beach Nourishment along oceanfront communities. Key programs include: 1) Dune Maintenance Program - conducts dune construction and maintenance on all public beach lands including repairing coastal storm damage to dunes, planting dune grass, erecting dune fence, and constructing and maintaining pedestrian and vehicular dune crossings; and, 2) Technical Engineering Program - monitors the condition of the state’s beaches through surveys designed to measure actual sand losses. This work element has supplied critical data needed to determine beach nourishment needs and has been a basis for federal assistance for sand replacement in declared disasters in Delaware.

The Division also coordinates with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on all federal shoreline protection studies and projects and oversees the operation of the Sand Bypass Facility at Indian River Inlet. The facility is designed to maintain the coastline on the north side of the inlet and protect the coastal highway and bridge approach at that location. It operates by excavating (dredging) sand accumulated on the beach south of the inlet jetty and pumping it to the north side beach to replace that which is lost annually due to normal erosion processes and storm occurrences.

Related Policies

Near Shore Sand Mining Regulations

Del. Code Ann. tit. 23, §1707. Establishes guidelines for sand removal; with the exception of gravel.

Del. Code Ann. tit. 7, §6805. A permit is required to alter, dig, mine, move, remove or deposit any substantial amount of beach or other materials, or remove a significant amount of vegetation on any beach seaward of the Building Line which may affect enhancement, preservation or protection of beaches.

Dredge and Fill Regulations

Del. Code Ann. tit. 23, §1706. No sand shall be dug, mined, removed or carried away from any public or private beach extending from mean high watermark to the Ocean Highway between Rehoboth and the Maryland state line.

Sand Scraping/Dune Reshaping

Del. Code Ann. tit. 7, §6803. Allows construction, reconstruction and maintenance of dunes when necessary in order to prevent and repair damages from erosion of public beaches.

Dune Creation/Restoration

Del. Code Ann. tit. 7, §6803. Allows construction, reconstruction and maintenance of dunes when necessary in order to prevent and repair damages from erosion of public beaches.

Public Access Regulations

Del. Code Ann. tit. 7, §4701(c). Publicly owned beaches and shorelines shall be managed and maintained to assure adequate and continued public access to these areas within the carrying capacity of the resource.

Beach Nourishment Funding Program

There is state funding program for beach nourishment. Del. Code Ann. tit. 7, §6808 establishes the Beach Preservation Fund.

Amount of State Funding

By law, the balance of the Fund must be at least $1 million at the beginning of the fiscal year.

Cost Share Requirements

The state provides through bond bills (for construction activities) and general bonds (hotel and accommodation tax). Local: individual towns may pay a portion of the cost and may also be reimbursed by the state for the contribution."

General Description of Funding

Delaware has passed a Beach Act which specifies at least $1 million per year go to beach nourishment and shoreline preservation. Delaware also finances shoreline protection and beach nourishment through bond measures, plus it added a one percent state accommodations tax, dedicated to shoreline protection. According to Tony Pratt, who has been involved in beach nourishment issues in Delaware for many years, the Delaware General Assembly will typically add funding if needed. In Delaware, the typical state and local cost share is 50/50. However the one percent state accommodations tax dedicated to nourishment (which in Delaware, unlike most states, is levied by the state) can be used as part of the local share (Pratt, 2006; King, 2006). This tax raises an estimated $1.7 million per year.

Additional Policy Considerations

DNREC, Division of Soil and Water Conservation, Shoreline and Waterway Management Section and DNREC, Division of Water Resources have regulatory responsibility for erosion response permitting.

The Regulation Governing Beach Protection and the Use of Beaches, Section 4.03 Construction of Beach Erosion Control or Shore Protection Structures or Facilities Seaward of the Building Line states that:

"No person shall commence or conduct, without a permit therefore from the Division, construction of any structure or facility on any beach seaward of the Building Line, the primary function of which is beach erosion control or shore protection including, but not limited to, groins, jetties, seawalls, revetments, dikes, bulkheads, and beach fill; except that ordinary dune maintenance, as determined by the Division, including the proper installation of sand fence and the planting and fertilization of stabilizing vegetation, shall not require a permit."

Also see 5102 Regulation Governing Beach Protection and the Use of Beaches which modifies the original Beach Preservation Act regulations.

The Division of Soil and Water encourages private property owners and communities to rebuild damaged dunes by trucking in clean sand from inland sources to restore the dunes. This activity is permitted under a Letter of Approval.


Delaware has been conducting beach fill projects on both bay beaches and the ocean coast since 1957. From 1988 to 1994 beach fill projects occurred at the following beaches: Bethany, South Bethany, Dewey, Fenwick (both unincorporated and incorporated areas), Indian, Middlesex, and Sea Colony. An article published at on January 30, 2012 questioned the practice of performing beach fill projects at Sea Colony, which has a private beach.

All told, the projects have placed on the beach a total of 3.3 million cubic yards of sand, which is an annual average of 329,000 cubic yards.

A report prepared for DNREC projected what the loss of tourism revenue and decline in property values would be for 1996 to 2000 if the state stopped the beach fill projects. The report concluded that the total loss of tourist revenue would be $30.2 million and that property values would decline $43.3 million.

An article appearing in Delaware State News on March 5, 2016 discussed Delaware's beach fill program and presented viewpoints for and against continuing the program. According to the article, the state and federal governments have spent about $34 million and $131 million, respectively, to restore beaches along Delaware’s coast with much of the work coming in the last decade.

A news report Dewey, Rehoboth beaches getting more sand by Delaware Public Media in November 2016 stated:

Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are pumping a million pounds of sand from the ocean floor onto the beaches over the next few weeks. It’s the cheapest, most effective way to repair the beaches, and it’s been done roughly every three years since 2005 [.......] Federal and state governments have poured over $100 million dollars into beach restoration projects for a projected 50-year period. Dewey and Rehoboth were most recently repaired after Hurricane Sandy in 2013.

The Delaware Coastal Management Program provided the following data in 2009 summarizing beach fill projects through that year:

Project Location Year Cubic Yards of Material
Pickering Beach 1962 39,600
1969 5,000
1978 85,200
1990 55,400
2001 27,150
Kitts Hummock Beach 1961 80,000
1962 30,600
1969 12,000
1973 3,000
1974 46,500
1979 74,000
1988 15,780
1996 32,580
2006 400+/-
2008 15,000
Ted Harvey Wildlife Area 1996 50,000
Bowers Beach 1962 35,500
1968 18,000
1969 6,500
1972 21,200
1973 15,800
1974 28,800
1985 35,700
1986 13,700
1988 51,700
1994 12,000
1998 101,396
2009 1,000
South Bowers 1961 20,000
1962 10,000
1969 4,000
1974 4,000
1975 15,000
1976 9,400
1984 17,000
1989 8,000
1992 2,000
1997 7,500
1998 10,300
Big Stone Beach 1962 26,000
Mispillion River Breach 1998 35,521
Slaughter Beach 1958 49,000
1961 165,000
1962 56,600
1975 179,500
1976 277,700
1979 20,000
1985 10,300
1985 26,300
2002 N/A
2005 115,000
Broadkill Beach 1957 76,800
1961 120,000
1973 118,100
1975 295,000
1976 59,700
1981 127,700
1987-1988 81,000
1993-1994 67,000
1996 25,000
1999 36,205
2005 152,000
Beach Plum Island 1994 15,000
Lewes Beach 1953 55,100
1954 44,900
1957 79,000
1957 434,400
1962 20,700
1963 87,000
1969 135,600
1973 69,800
1975 101,700
1977 11,400
1978 31,000
1981 113,900
1983 50,500
1987 11,000
1989 1,500,000
1990 32,000
1994 50,000
1998 30,898
2004 180,745
Cape Shores 2001 8,000
2002 10,000
2003 8,000
2004 6,000
2005 7,000
2006 6,249
2007 N/A
2008 24,000
North Shores/Henlopen Acres 1962 69,400
North Shores 1998 188,100
2005 N/A
Rehoboth Beach 1962 216,200
1998 274,300
2005 N/A
Rehoboth Beach/Dewey Beach 2005 1,670,000
Dewey Beach 1962 82,000
1993 5,755
1994 578,874
1994 14,004
1998 453,500
2005 N/A
North Indian Beach 1994 4,778
2005 N/A
Indian River Inlet 1963 13,500
1966 11,200
1998 5,949
Bethany Beach 1961 100,000
1962 69,700
1989 284,500
1992 219,735
1994 184,452
1998 321,700
2007 N/A
Sea Colony 1989 132,600
1998 128,000
2007 N/A
Bethany Beach/South Bethany 2007 3,800,000
South Bethany 1962 65,100
1989 231,000
1992 192,749
1994 98,474
1998 168,900
2007 N/A
Fenwick Island (Incorporated) 1992 144,900
1994 8,236
1998 56,100
2005 N/A
Fenwick Island (Unincorporated) 1991 126,800
1992 37,000
1994 60,000
1998 85,000
2005 N/A
Fenwick Island (Overall) 2004 1,000,000

The Washington Post reported on the following massive, long-term beach fill project in their December 21, 2003 edition:

A 50-year, $170 million federal and state project will preserve an eroded stretch of Delaware beach battered repeatedly in recent months by northeast winds and seas. A 2.6-mile section of shoreline between northernmost Rehoboth Beach and the southern border of Dewey Beach will be rebuilt and protected under the project, with the Army Corps of Engineers paying 65 percent of the costs for developing protective dunes and wider beaches.

The project was awarded to a contractor and began in Fall 2004.

Dredging work in September to October 2004 in Delaware Bay by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who were pumping sand onto a beach near Lewes resulted in pottery shards, glass and other artifacts being deposited on the beach. This work was part of a $3.9 million project to improve the jetty at Roosevelt Inlet, limit sand shoaling in the inlet and restore the storm-damaged beach. Contractors pumped 11,000 cubic yards of sand from the inlet and 165,000 cubic yards of sand from an underwater site about 3,000 feet off the beach on the southeast side of the inlet. The artifacts found on the beach caused speculation that they may have come from a buried historical site - perhaps a community established by Europeans that became submerged as sands shifted in and around Cape Henlopen.

An article by Jim Cresson that appeared in the Cape Gazette in August 2005 pointed to the massive beach fill projects at Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach as being the potential cause of an increase in swimmer injuries. These projects resulted in a change to the beach profile such that there is a steep drop-off where the beach meets the ocean. Waves tend to break abruptly and violently in this zone, causing cuts, dislocations, broken bones and spinal injuries. The Beebe Medical Center recorded 11 spinal injuries as of August 22, 2005, compared to just three in 2004. The hospital treated 238 other surf injuries compared to 103 during summer 2004. The sand quality has evidently contributed to the problem, since the imported sand contains many shell fragments.

An article by Victor Greto in on May 10, 2006 stated that following the $18 million beach fill project completed in 2005, a 2-mile-long, 100-foot-wide swath of beach that runs through Rehoboth and Dewey beaches was fenced off to help dunes develop. The 4-foot-high fences started going up in late Jult 2005 and were completed in Rehoboth in September and Dewey in late fall 2005.

Tony Pratt, administrator of the shoreline and waterway management section of DNREC stated that the fences will protect corrals sown with grasses, and the grass eventually will help protect the beach, the boardwalk and the area behind the boardwalk. He also said that the state hopes to have enough money to work on a similar beach fill project in Bethany Beach and South Bethany in fall 2006.

Yet another consequence of the 2005 beach fill project at Rehoboth Beach has been the collection of a layer of gravel or small stones just seaward of the waterline in about waist deep water. State officials announced in late 2008 that they plan to remove the swath of stones that has littered the shoreline in Rehoboth Beach since the 2005 project. Crews will use a long-arm excavator to mechanically remove stones from the beach, one block at a time. The stones move in and out with the waves. They also move northward in littoral currents that run just offshore, along the coast. The stones seem most abundant at Rehoboth Avenue, but are still present north to the end of the Boardwalk and further south, near Laurel Street. The stones were originally hoped to migrate away or be become buried in sand, but they have proven to have more staying power than expected, creating a steeper and more dangerous beach. The project is scheduled to begin in March 2009, starting near Rehoboth Avenue and removing stone one block at a time. The work will be done by crews from Sussex County Soil Conservation District, an agency related to DNREC.

The 3.8-million-cubic yard Bethany-South Bethany Beach nourishment and storm damage reduction project began in September 2007. Initial project construction cost is approximated at $22.5 million and the estimated cost of periodic nourishment per cycle (approximately every three years) is $5.3 million. Total estimated project cost per year for the beachfill and dune system is $3.624 million over the 50-year project life. This cost estimate includes initial construction costs, periodic nourishment, major rehabilitation, and project monitoring over 50 years.

An additional $7.5 million beach fill project for Dewey ($6 million) and Bethany ($1.5 million) beaches was announced in September 2008. The project will consist of 300,000 cubic yards of sand to be pumped onto Dewey Beach, using a borrow site off Fenwick Island. In addition, 100,000 cubic yards of sand will be pumped onto the beach near Garfield Parkway in Bethany. It is expected that the Fenwick Island site will yield sand without the gravel that plagued a beach fill project in 2005. Work on the latest project was expected to begin in March 31, 2009 and be completed by the end of April.

The Dewey Beach project is on schedule for periodic repairs following the previous project in 2005, but Bethany Beach went through a major re-fill and repair project in early 2008. Damage from a May 2008 storm and subsequent ones moved up the repair schedule for that beach.

An article at on June 21, 2011 stated that a beach replenishment project in Fenwick Island that was originally scheduled to begin June 1 had been postponed until the latter half of August 2011. Beach replenishment scheduled for South Bethany in June had already been postponed until October. Dewey Beach and Rehoboth Beach are expected to be worked on after South Bethany and Fenwick. Beach restoration in Bethany Beach has already been completed with $22.7 million in federal emergency rehabilitation funds. The money was allocated after fall nor'easters in 2009 damaged the shoreline.

An article Beach repair to begin in mid-November appeared at on October 27, 2011. From the article:

"After a series of delays, repair and renourishment of Dewey Beach and Rehoboth Beach is set to start in mid-November. Three projects are being combined into a single project: beach repair from the 2009 nor’easter storm, regular five-year beach renourishment and repair from August’s Hurricane Irene. The $35 million project breaks down like this:
  • Bethany Beach and South Bethany – $16.43 million for 1,596,000 cubic yards of sand
  • Rehoboth and Dewey – $16.39 million for 1,033,000 cubic yards
  • Fenwick Island – $2.5 million for 332,000 cubic yards."

In early January 2012 it was reported that beach fill project at Dewey Beach had been completed and that the Rehoboth Beach project would be completed within a month. Here is a project description (including an update following Hurricane Sandy in October 2012) from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Philadelphia District.

An article Should nation's taxpayers be paying for beach-fill efforts? was published on April 25, 2011 in Besides presenting views on the funding question, the article provides a graphic giving details of beach fill projects planned for New Jersey and Delaware in 2011 to "repair" storm damage from 2009.

In June 2012 an article Sea Colony beach project debated was published at The issue discussed in the article is whether the public should have access to private beaches if public funds are used for a beach fill project on a private beach.

In April 2015 an article Scientists: Benefits of replenishment outweigh losses appeared in the Cape Gazette. The article discusses a pending beach fill project at Broadkill Beach which was scheduled to pump nearly 2 million cubic yards of sand on the beach as part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Philadelphia District's $310 million Delaware River Main Channel Deepening Project, which will dredge more than 102 miles of channel to increase the depth from 40 feet to 45 feet. One of the issues discussed in the article is the effects of the beach fill on beach life, including horseshoe crabs, sea turtles and Sabellaria vulgaris, also known as the sandbuilder worm or reefworm, which creates elaborate reef-like sand structures along Delaware Bay beaches, including Broadkill Beach.

DNREC's Shoreline & Waterway Management website has Delaware Beach Fill Projects Update. The website has links to the beach fill plans for South Bethany, Bethany, Dewey Beach, Rehoboth Beach and Lewes Beach. Information is also presented for beach fill projects at South Bowers Beach, Bowers Beach, and Kitts Hummock Beach.

For more information on beach fill projects and erosion rates, see the report titled The Economic Effects of a Five Year Fill Program for the Ocean Beaches of Delaware (1998) prepared by Jack Faucett Associates and an updated report in 2007 from Chrysalis Consulting, Inc. Also see here for additional resources on this topic from NOAA.

A recent technical paper evaluated the costs of beach fill versus the costs of planned retreat as responses to coastal erosion. The paper, A Comparison of Fill and Retreat Costs on Delaware's Ocean Beaches, concludes: "Our analysis supports continuation of the fill policy with the cost of retreat being more than three times the cost of fill."

Another interesting technical paper is Beach Nourishment on Delaware Bay Beaches to Restore Habitat for Horseshoe Crab Spawning and Shorebird Foraging, December 2002.

State funding for erosion response activities comes from the General Fund and Bond Bill and an Accommodations Tax.

Information on beach fill in Delaware is also available through Western Carolina University's Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines. State-by-state information is available from the pull-down menu or by clicking on a state on the map on this page.

In 2017 the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) announced a new online National Beach Nourishment Database – featuring data on projects comprised of nearly 1.5 billion cubic yards of sand placed in nearly 400 projects covering the continental U.S. coastline. In addition to the total volume and the number of projects, the database includes the number of nourishment events, the oldest project, the newest project, the known total cost, the total volume and the known length. The information is broken into both state statistics and those of local or regional projects. Every coastal continental state is included (so Alaska and Hawaii are still being compiled), and projects along the Great Lakes are similarly waiting to be added.

A report National Assessment of Beach Nourishment Requirements Associated with Accelerated Sea Level Rise (Leatherman, 1989) on EPA's Climate Change Impacts and Adapting to Climate Change websites notes that the cumulative cost of sand replenishment to protect Delaware's coast from a 50 to 200 cm rise in sea level by 2100 is estimated at $34 million-$162 million.

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.

State, Territory, and Commonwealth Beach Nourishment Programs: A National Overview (2000) is a report NOAA/OCRM that provides an overview of the problem of beach erosion, various means of addressing this problem, and discusses issues regarding the use of beach nourishment. Section 2 of the report provides an overview of state, territorial, and commonwealth coastal management policies regarding beach nourishment and attendant funding programs. Appendix B provides individual summaries of 33 beach nourishment programs and policies.


Anthony P. Pratt
Delaware Shoreline and Waterway Management Section
(302) 739-9921

State of the Beach Report: Delaware
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