State of the Beach/State Reports/MD

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Maryland has plentiful access to its coastline and has made acquisition of additional coastal property a priority. The state has provided substantial information on erosion and other coastal hazards, although erosion remains a major problem. There is a good inventory of shoreline structures, although a corresponding inventory of beach fill projects is needed. Information on surfing areas is lacking, as is recognition of waves as a valuable coastal resource and surfing as a desirable, revenue-generating activity.

Maryland Ratings


(+) Maryland has a statewide minimum setback for development along tidal waters and wetlands, and further requires local programs to develop their own shoreline buffers and minimum setbacks.

(+) Using non-structural shoreline stabilization measures, including living shorelines, are a codified requirement for addressing shoreline erosion to preserve the natural environment as much as possible. Waivers must be obtained for an exception to this regulation.

(+) 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 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, two key pieces of sea level rise adaptation policy were adopted by the state, including the Living Shorelines Protection Act to address shore erosion issues, and the strengthening of provisions in the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Area Protection Program Act, which among other things amended jurisdictional boundaries due to sea level rise and increased a vegetated buffer requirement from 100 to 200 feet for new development. The state also completed their Comprehensive Strategy for Reducing Maryland’s Vulnerability to Climate Change in 2008.

(+) A tool to help prevent and mitigate coastal hazards, Maryland's Coastal Atlas helps property owners, municipal officials, educators, and marine contractors understand shoreline management processes, assistance opportunities and practices appropriate for maintaining the rich cultural and natural resources associated with Maryland's coastal and shoreline areas.

(+) Maryland’s Comprehensive Coastal Inventory Program (Chesapeake Bay only) has mapped shoreline features, including shoreline structures, coastal access, natural features, bank height and condition characterization. There is now a full statewide inventory of shoreline structures along Chesapeake Bay.

(+) Maryland has upgraded the Chestertown Wastewater Treatment Plant. The upgrade is anticipated to dramatically reduce the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients that the treatment plant dumps into the Chester River which flows directly to the Chesapeake Bay. In addition to the Chestertown Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrade, additional plant upgrades are scheduled to take place at all 66 major treatment plants in the state.

(+) An online map server provides average erosion rates for Maryland’s shorelines.

(+) There is on average better than one public access site for every mile of shoreline.

(+) With 32 miles of open ocean coastline, 20 miles of it in the Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland's open ocean coastline is approximately two-thirds publicly owned.

(+) In 2000, Maryland spent over $12 million for Chesapeake Bay access.

(+) A federal report on the Chesapeake Bay program indicates that between 1995 and 2004 Maryland spent almost 2-1/2 times what neighboring Virginia did on Chesapeake Bay environmental programs.

(0) Due to land subsidence, sea level is rising at a rate of approximately one foot per century. The rate may rise to as much as 2 to 3 feet by 2100 as a result of greenhouse warming.

(0) At Ocean City, 2.7 million cubic meters of sand and was added between 1990 and 1998. It has been estimated that at least an additional half million cubic meters of sand will be needed every four years for the next 50 years.

(0) Hurricane Isabel caused an estimated $273 million in damage to coastal property in 2003. Most of this damage was to private property, since a reported 96% of Maryland's coastal land (along both inland waterways and the open ocean) is privately owned.

(0) 31% of Maryland's open ocean coastline is experiencing coastal erosion. The State is currently losing approximately 260 acres of land each year to shore erosion.

(-) Although Maryland has good information on a number of beach health indicators, including beach access, beach erosion and shoreline structures, the information is primarily for Chesapeake Bay and tends to neglect the open ocean coast.

(-) 16.5% of Maryland’s Coastal Bays are armored.

(-) Counties are required to monitor water quality only at beaches that charge entrance fees, and the decision to close or post advisories is discretionary.

(-) Between 1996 and 2005, the Maryland Department of the Environment issued permits allowing more than 200 miles of shoreline hardening, almost entirely along the shoreline of inland bays and rivers. There were 36 miles of hardening in Anne Arundel County and about 125 miles is hardened in Baltimore County.

(-) Along Maryland’s shoreline, horseshoe crabs have become stuck in the crevices of riprap revetments. More than 20% of Maryland’s shoreline is armored, making it that much more difficult for horseshoe crabs to come ashore to spawn.


  • 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.
  • Montgomery County Bans Foam Surfrider's DC Chapter along with Trash Free Maryland and other groups followed up on the DC foam ban by working on a very similar measure in Montgomery County, MD. Armed with data from river cleanups showing that one in four pieces of trash in local waterways, the Chapter created great materials to emphasize the point as seen here. They had an action alert to the MO CO legislators and they attended and spoke at the legislative hearings. In January 2015, Montgomery County, Maryland banned expanded polystyrene foam in food packaging, for consumer use, and packing peanuts! Expanded polystyrene foam, known as Styrofoam, makes up a quarter of all trash found in our local rivers. Banning this trash at the source — where it’s distributed to consumers — will help prevent it from reaching our rivers. That means less trash in the rivers we paddle and swim in. Our friends at Trash Free Maryland summarize the legislation:
On January 1, 2016, restaurants and carryouts will be banned from using expanded polystyrene foam food packaging (like clamshells, plates and cups). County offices and contractors will also be required to use recyclable or compostable alternatives for all disposable food packaging.
On January 1, 2017, all disposable food packaging at restaurants and carryouts must also be recyclable or compostable.
The Montgomery County ban also includes sale of foam food packaging for consumer use (like 100-packs of cups you might buy at the grocery store) and foam packing peanuts, effective January 2016.
  • Foam Banned in DC The DC Chapter joined with a large coalition of groups supporting a ban of single use expanded polystyrene takeout and food containers in Washington DC. The Washington DC City Council enacted the ban by passing the Sustainable DC Omnibus Act of 2013, including a ban on EPS foam, in July 2014. More on this victory.
  • Unused Pharmaceutical Safe Disposal Act The D.C. Chapter campaigned for legislation passed by D.C. Council seeking to curb pharmaceutical drugs released into the District’s surface waters, by creating a disposal program for consumers. Recent surveys had found elevated levels of several drugs and chemicals in the District's waters.
  • Anacostia River Cleanup and Protection Act Starting in January 2010, virtually every retailer in DC that sells food began charging 5 cents for each single-use paper and plastic bag distributed. Proceeds from the fee will create the Anacostia River Cleanup Fund, a dedicated trust to pay for restoration of one of the ten most polluted rivers in the country. The fund will also pay for an education campaign and reusable bags to be distributed for free to low-income and elderly residents. The DC Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation led the public outreach effort, coordinating several partner groups to mount a citywide postcard campaign that generated over 1200 signatures from supportive residents. Chapter representatives also presented at the public hearing, met with council members and staff, spoke to local school children, created a PSA for YouTube distribution, printed stickers for supporters to wear at hearings, and designed the coalition's logo.
  • Sea Terrace Condo beach dunes adopted The Sea Terrace Condo beach dunes are the Ocean City Chapter's newest "Adopt Your Beach" project. The chapter is assisting an intergovernmental team consisting of the State of Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Town of Ocean City, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Cape May Plant Materials Center (PMC) plant sea grasses located at 128th Street in Ocean City, Maryland, to test a variety of species that will eventually be used to diversify the plant community on restored dunes. More on Adopt Your Beach and other chapter programs and projects.

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

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