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

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Delaware Ratings
Indicator Type Information Status
Beach Access77
Water Quality89
Beach Erosion7-
Erosion Response-5
Beach Fill7-
Shoreline Structures 6 3
Beach Ecology6-
Surfing Areas45
Coastal Development{{{19}}}{{{20}}}
Sea Level Rise{{{21}}}{{{22}}}


The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) oversees the permitting of shoreline protection structures. A water-front property owner must submit an application (fee $150) describing the potential construction.

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.

DNREC oversees all projects on the beach, defined as the area between the high water line and 1000 feet inland. The main purpose of this law is to enhance, preserve and protect public and private beaches. Section 6803(b) of Chapter 68, Beach Preservation of the Delaware Code states:

"The Department shall prevent and repair damages from erosion of public beaches. To this end, the Department shall, when it deems necessary, provide, construct, reconstruct and maintain groins, jetties, banks, dikes, dunes, bulkheads, seawalls, breakwaters and other facilities or make any other repairs or take any other measures along or upon any public beach or shoreline area in this State. All structures, devices and facilities existing now or in the future which are devoted to the enhancement, preservation and protection of beaches shall be under the sole jurisdiction, management and control of the Department."

Section 6805 requires a permit for any construction on the beach.

In Regulation Governing Beach Protection and the Use of Beaches, Section 2.06(c) states:

"In the event of an extreme emergency, or warning thereof, which may involve grave and imminent danger of substantial property loss and/or personal injuries (e.g., an impending coastal storm), a person may perform work on a structure that is related to the protection of persons and said structure. However, before a person can commence any such emergency protection work, the person owning the structure on which such work shall be performed, or any agent thereof, shall contact the Division to request approval to perform the emergency protection work. The Division's approval or disapproval may be given to the owner, or agent thereof, either orally or in writing. After the emergency or emergency warning period, the Division may require the removal of any emergency protection work performed pursuant to the provisions of this Section."

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."

To obtain a permit, the applicant must provide site plans and analysis of impacts on surrounding area and beach. Property owners seeking approvals for bulkheads or revetments must demonstrate that the structural integrity of the building depends on the bulkhead and that alternatives to armoring, including relocation or replacement of existing foundations have been explored as part of the application process. More information on the permitting program can be found here.

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

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control promotes fill and proper location of structures over shoreline armoring.


DNREC maintains a database of oceanfront and bayfront structures.

Delaware doesn’t have an estimate of the amount of shoreline that is armored, but it is apparent that most shoreline structures are along the open coast:

  • South Bethany – the entire ocean front has a stone revetment along Ocean Drive which was put in to protect the road. A few properties have bulkheads. Two of those bulkheads have revetments in front of them.
  • Bethany Beach – many of the ocean front properties have bulkheads. Groins are also constructed on the beach
  • Sussex Shores – a few of the homes have bulkheads constructed after the 1962 storm
  • Dewey Beach – The beach in the center of town has a bulkhead. One of the properties located at Clayton Street has a stone revetment constructed in front of the bulkhead. This was put in to mitigate damage to the beach which could occur due to scouring as a result of the bulkhead
  • Rehoboth Beach – a large part of the ocean block has bulkheads and groins which were constructed on the beach after the 1962 storm

Concerns about possible increased erosion at Cape Henlopen State Park Beach prompted the Sierra Club to take action in February 2002 to appeal a permit issued to the community of North Shores for the repair of a large stone groin. Surfrider Foundation's Delaware Chapter also opposed this project. The concern was that the groin would trap sand at the North Shores beach that would otherwise migrate to Cape Henlopen State Park Beach.

Herring Point, north of the north groin

At Cape Henlopen State Park, deterioration of the "Naval Jetty" at Herring Point led to chronic beach erosion and degraded surfing conditions. In that location, Surfrider's Delaware Chapter supported repairs of the two rock groins, completed in 2007-2008. Herring Point has since begun to accrete sand, and surfing conditions have generally stabilized or even improved.

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

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.


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

Public Education Program

A good general discussion of Delaware's Beach Preservation Act policies and Construction on Delaware Coastline can be found here on the Shoreline and Waterway Management section of DNREC's website.

Also see the Coastal Storms Web page (seemingly stalled under development) on DNREC's website.

DNREC has developed a brochure Striking a Balance – A Guide to Coastal Dynamics and Beach Management in Delaware that discusses the value of beaches and conflicts with coastal development. A newly updated and expanded edition of this brochure took top honors in the educational brochures category of the 2005 Communicator Awards. Free copies of the publication are available from the Shoreline & Waterway Management Office by contacting Jennifer Wheatley at 302-739-9921.

Delaware Sea Grant published two new guidance documents in 2009. They are:

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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