State of the Beach/State Reports/MA/Beach Fill

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Massachusetts Ratings
Indicator Type Information Status
Beach Access83
Water Quality75
Beach Erosion9-
Erosion Response-8
Beach Fill6-
Shoreline Structures9 3
Beach Ecology6-
Surfing Areas25
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

MA Coastal Zone Management Program Policies. Coastal Hazard Policy #1. Preserve, protect, restore, and enhance the beneficial functions of storm damage prevention and flood control provided by natural coastal landforms, such as dunes, beaches, barrier beaches, coastal banks, land subject to coastal storm flowage, salt marshes, and land under the ocean.

Related Policies

Near Shore Sand Mining

MA Coastal Zone Management Program Policies. Ocean Resources Policy #3. Accommodate offshore sand and gravel mining needs in areas and in ways that will not adversely affect shoreline areas due to alteration of wave direction and dynamics, marine resources and navigation. Mining of sand and gravel, when and where permitted, will primarily be for the purpose of beach nourishment.

Dredge and Fill Regulations

MA Coastal Management Program Policies. Port Policy # 1. Ensure that dredging and disposal of dredged material minimize adverse effects on water quality, physical processes, marine productivity and public health.

MA Coastal Management Program Policies. Ocean Resources Policy #3. Accommodate offshore sand and gravel mining needs in areas and in ways that will not adversely affect shoreline areas due to alteration of wave direction and dynamics, marine resources and navigation. Mining of sand and gravel, when and where permitted, will primarily be for the purpose of beach nourishment.

Mass. Gen. L. ch. 91, §1-63. Public Waterfront Act. Mass. Regs. Code tit., 310, §9 Waterways Regulations. Applies to projects conducted below the mean high tide line.

Mass. Gen. L. ch. 131, §40. Wetlands Protection Act. Mass. Regs. Code tit., 310, §10. Wetlands Regulations. Proposed projects must the meet performance standards of the wetlands protection act.

Mass. Gen. L. ch. 132A, §12,13, 16-18. Ocean Sanctuaries Act. Mass. Regs. Code tit., 302, §5. Ocean Sanctuaries Regulations. Proposed projects within the five designated ocean sanctuaries are subject to these regulations.

Mass. Gen. L. ch. 21A, §2. Areas of Critical Environmental Concern. Mass. Regs. Code tit., 301, §12. Proposed projects with designated Areas of Critical Environmental Concern are subject to these regulations.

Mass. Gen. L. ch. 21. Mass. Regs. Code tit., 314, §9. Water Quality Certification Program. Proposed projects involving dredging of fill below the mean high water line are subject to these regulations.

Sand Scraping/Dune Reshaping Regulations

The Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management Program policies do not directly address this issue in detail. However, this activity has been found to be inconsistent with the performance standards for coastal dunes under the Wetlands Protection Act by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Mass. Gen. L. ch. 131, §40. And Mass. Regs. Code tit., 310, §10.28.

Dune Creation/Restoration Regulations

Mass. Gen. L. ch. 131, §40. Wetlands Protection Act . Mass. Regs. Code tit., 310, §10. Wetlands Regulations. Proposed projects must the meet performance standards of the Wetlands Protection Act.

Public Access Regulations

Mass. Gen. L. ch. 91, §1-63. Public Waterfront Act. Mass. Regs. Code tit., 310, §9 Waterways Regulations. Applies to projects conducted below the mean high tide line.

Beach Nourishment Funding Program

There is state funding for beach nourishment. The Rivers and Harbors Program implements beach restoration projects.

Amount of State Funding

The funding amount varies from year to year.

Cost Share Requirements

Cost Share requirements vary depending on the sponsor of the project and the owner(s) of the land."

The MEPA Regulations (301 CMR 11.00) require closer scrutiny or review of projects within ACECs that need certain state permits, use state funding, or involve state agency actions (see Erosion section).

A long list of Massachusetts General Laws (M.G.L.) and accompanying regulations have potential applicability to Beach Fill projects. These include the Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act, the Massachusetts Clean Waters Act, the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act, the Public Waterfront Act, the Coastal Wetland Restriction Act, the Wetlands Protection Act, and the Ocean Sanctuaries Act. In addition, Executive Orders 149 (FEMA and Floodplain Use), 181 (Barrier Beaches) and 190 (Off-road Vehicles) may apply.

The state's overall philosophy is to encourage nonstructural means to deal with shoreline change. The state actively encourages beach fill as an alternative to hardened structures. The homeowners and local communities can use unpolluted dredge material for their beach fill projects. In addition, the state mines inland gravel pits for beach fill.

If a dredging project is publicly funded, it is state policy that any clean compatible dredge material be placed on the closest public beach.

The regulations of the Massachusetts Wetland Protection Act state (310 CMR: 10.27 (1)) in part,

“When a proposed project involves the dredging, filling, removing, or altering of a coastal beach, the issuing authority shall presume that the coastal beach is significant to the interests specified above. This presumption may be overcome only upon a clear showing that a coastal beach does not play a role in storm damage prevention, flood control, or protection of wildlife habitat…”

These areas are presumed to be significant and the burden of proof is on the proponent to demonstrate otherwise.

The Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act regulations include performance standards for evaluating the potential impacts of beach nourishment (beach fill) projects on beach ecology. For relatively large scale beach fill projects pre- and post-site monitoring is required in the intertidal and subtidal portion of the beach to document changes to beach ecology. The type of monitoring would vary according to the type of beach (e.g., sandy and cobble). Frequently associated with beach monitoring is ecological monitoring of the offshore area that contains potential source material for the fill project. Offshore sand / cobble mining for material to place on beaches may have substantial impacts to offshore resources, and monitoring is required in the potential mining areas to document the suitability of site use, pre-mining resources, and post-mining recovery. If there are sensitive resources (shellfish, eelgrass, etc.) within the footprint of the fill project or adjacent to the project, then ecological monitoring is typically required.

Monitoring is typically conducted by either the Department of Conservation and Recreation or the municipality.

In March 2007 MassDEP published its Beach Nourishment: Guide to Best Management Practices in Massachusetts, which was developed for those proposing beach nourishment projects to minimize erosion and potential adverse environmental impacts, to promote the beneficial reuse of clean, compatible, dredge material, and to expedite regulatory review.


Massachusetts does not have an inventory of beach fill projects. The state has had very few large-scale fill projects designed to provide a specific level of shore protection. Most fill is relatively small scale, beneficial re-use of clean, compatible sediments from nearby dredging projects.

Most beach fill projects in Massachusetts involve beneficial re-use of clean, compatible sediments on adjacent beaches. For example, Sylvia State Beach in Oak Bluffs and Edgartown has been nourished many times with sediments from nearby dredging projects. Public funds were also used for a large fill project in Revere during the mid-1980s.

There have been three privately funded beach fill projects performed in Massachusetts specifically for shore protection. These occurred at Great Island in 1985, at Long Beach in 1990 and 1999, and at Dead Neck Island, Barnstable in 1985 and 1998.

In 2012, CZM reviewed several dredging and/or beach nourishment proposals submitted for MEPA review. These projects included the town of Chatham 10-year comprehensive dredging and beach nourishment project and the town of Falmouth 10-year comprehensive dredging and beach nourishment project. CZM issued federal consistency concurrences on projects including the federal navigation and beach nourishment project at the Mashnee Dike in Bourne. CZM also issued federal consistency concurrence for the Winthrop Shores Reservation Restoration Program, which will be accomplished by dredging approximately 100,000 cubic yards of accreted material landward of the existing breakwaters off the coast of Winthrop Beach in Broad Sound. This dredged material, along with approximately 420,000 cubic yards of compatible material excavated from the abandoned Route 95 highway embankment in Saugus, will be used for beach or dune nourishment for Winthrop Beach in Winthrop.

Initially proposed in 2005, the Siasconset Shore Protection Project is designed to protect the southeastern corner of Nantucket Island from the effects of aggressive coastal erosion, specifically by widening Siasconset Beach by 200-250 feet and increasing its elevation by at least 10 feet. The project proposal includes a plan to dredge approximately 2.6 million cubic yards of sand from an offshore site, pump the sediment onto a two- to three-mile section of the beach, and install a large geotextile tube filled with sand (geotube) at the base of the existing coastal bank. The Final Impact Report for the Siasconset Beach Nourishment project has been reviewed by the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office (MEPA). On January 29, 2007 the Secretary of Environmental Affairs determined that no further MEPA review was required and that the project could go to the permitting phase.

The towns of Newburyport and Newbury, as well as homeowners on Plum Island, are attempting to secure funding for a project to replenish the eroding beach at Plum Island by using sand dredged from the Merrimack River. In May 2009 it was reported that the Merrimack River Beach Alliance had moved from the theoretical to the practical in plans to replenish the eroded beach at Plum Island Center. The dredging and onshore deposit of an estimated 160,000 cubic yards of sand will be done under the auspices of the Army Corps of Engineers. Plum Island is to receive 120,000 cubic yards and Salisbury Beach the other 40,000. Army Corps officials stated the agency could be in a position to solicit bids on the project by the end of the summer 2009, which would mean dredging could occur in late 2009 or early in 2010. The federal funds for the dredging operation, $2.2 million, are already committed. Federal funds will pay for 65 percent of the onshore deposit costs, estimated at about $2 million. The state Department of Conservation and Recreation will cover three-quarters of the remaining $700,000, or about $525,000, leaving $175,000 to be borne jointly by Newbury, Newburyport and Salisbury. In November 2009 it was reported that bids had been opened on November 20 (low bid was $3.25 million) and that the project was expected to begin in early 2010. Permits require the dredging to be completed by March 15, to avoid disturbing the seasonal migration of certain fish species, and the beach replenishment done by April 1 to avoid disturbing nesting piper plovers.

Property owners just south of Minister’s Point and along Eastward Point want to bring in sand to rebuild eroded dunes and beaches. Both projects have been approved by the conservation commission, but because the locations are within the Pleasant Bay Area of Critical Environmental Concern, they are subject to review under the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act. Four property owners on Linnell Lane and Salt Pond Road are working together on a project to rebuild a barrier beach that protects a marsh almost directly across the harbor from the new inlet in North Beach. Regular washovers of a small barrier beach threaten to fill the marsh behind it with sand.

During 2010, CZM reviewed a number of dredging proposals submitted for federal consistency review. These projects included the Stage Harbor dredging project in Chatham, the Sengekontacket Inner Channel dredging and beach nourishment project in Oak Bluffs, and the Swan Pond River dredging and beach nourishment project in Dennis. CZM also continued its involvement in the dredging of the federal navigation channel at the entrance of the Merrimack River, which was completed in October. The dredging resulted in the placement of approximately 43,000 cubic yards of sand on the beach in Salisbury and 170,000 cubic yards on Plum Island, north of the center island groin. CZM is presently a participant, as a member of the Merrimack River Beach Alliance, in addressing the continuing erosion issues on Plum Island.

A federal beach fill project toward the Gray Gables end of the Mashnee Dike concluded in December 2012. The Robert B. Our Co. deposited 2,900 cubic yards of beach sand at the section of the dike blown out and inundated during Hurricane Bob in late 1991. The project entails an area of the man-made dike at Phinneys Harbor, measuring 436 feet by 41 feet on the dike, which is federally owned land. The dike was built with spoils and sediment from the project that featured a new Cape Cod Canal channel to the west of Mashnee Island, replacing the Phinneys Harbor channel in the 1930s. The project also included work to create a roadway-runoff feature to carry stormwater from the dike road to the beach.

The state budgets for beach fill projects, as needed for state-owned beaches. The state funding for beach fill projects is the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), Office of Waterways. The DCR Division of Urban Parks and Recreation (metropolitan Boston area) also funds beach fill projects for state owned beaches. Budgets are project-specific and the fill portion of the project, in the case of DCR, is typically part of a larger, overall site improvement project. Beach fill is generally funded from the Capital Budget from a specific project or program authorization, e.g., Boston Harbor Beaches Bonds.

Additional information on dredging and beach fill projects in Massachusetts is available on the website of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District. Here's information on Shore and Bank Protection Projects, Flood Risk Management Projects and Navigation Projects, as well as an overall update report.

The state monitors beach fill projects after sand placement, but has no set criteria to distinguish between a successful or unsuccessful project. The degree of success depends on the goals of the project. If the goal was to keep clean compatible dredge material in the littoral system, the longevity of the nourishment is not a factor. However, if the goal is shore protection, the success would be based on the projected lifespan of the proposed project and the frequency of storms during the lifetime of the fill.

CZM staff believes a long-term comprehensive plan for beach fill needs in the state could be a useful planning tool in identifying sites where fill is likely to be effective without having significant environmental impacts. they also believe a long-term maintenance plan is needed for all state beaches so that the administration can plan for the level of funding needed to maintain these facilities.[1]

Figures cited in an article in USA Today (November 10, 2003) on beach fill indicated that the federal government has spent $8 million over the last 75 years on beach fill projects in Massachusetts.

The Future of Massachusetts Beaches: Relocate, Nourish, or Lose Them (18.4 MB PDF) provides proceedings from a May 2007 workshop featuring presentations by specialists and resource agencies on the technical aspects of beach nourishment.

Information on beach fill in Massachusetts 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 Massachusetts's coast from a 50 to 200 cm rise in sea level by 2100 is estimated at $490 million to $1.546 billion.

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.


Rebecca Haney
CZM Coastal Geologist
Phone: (617) 626-1200


  1. Rebecca Haney, CZM. Surfrider State of the Beach survey response, January 2003.

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