State of the Beach/State Reports/MD/Beach Description

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Maryland Ratings
Indicator Type Information Status
Beach Access88
Water Quality77
Beach Erosion8-
Erosion Response-6
Beach Fill6-
Shoreline Structures8 4
Beach Ecology2-
Surfing Areas25
Coastal Development{{{19}}}{{{20}}}
Sea Level Rise{{{21}}}{{{22}}}


Maryland's coastal zone includes 16 counties and the city of Baltimore, encompasses two-thirds of the state's land, and is home to 70% of its residents. Maryland has 4,360 miles of coastline along the Chesapeake Bay, coastal bays, and the Atlantic Ocean. An additional 3 million people are expected to move to the Chesapeake Bay watershed by 2020. Nearly 95% of the land in Maryland drains to the Chesapeake Bay. Prior to the late 1800s, oysters were so abundant in the Chesapeake Bay that some oyster reefs posed navigational hazards to boats. The Chesapeake Bay is shallow - a person six feet tall could wade in over 700,000 acres of the bay without becoming completely submerged. Sea level is rising in Maryland at a rate of approximately 1 foot per century, twice the national average, due to land subsidence.

Contact Info for the Lead Coastal Zone Management Agency

Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Coastal Zone Management Division
Tawes State Office Bldg., E-2
580 Taylor Avenue
Annapolis, MD 21401
Phone: (410) 260-8743

Matt Fleming
Program Director

Coastal Zone Management Program

Maryland's coastal program encourages sound economic development and minimizes the impact people have on vital coastal resources, such as fisheries. Major industries depending on Maryland's coast include seafood, shipping, agriculture, tourism, and recreation.

NOAA’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM) approved the Maryland Coastal Zone Management Program (Maryland Coastal Program) in September 1978. The lead Coastal Zone agency is the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR). MDNR is responsible for coordinating Maryland’s Chesapeake and Coastal Program through a network of State and local agencies using existing regulatory programs, a Governor’s Executive Order, a Secretarial Order, Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) among State agencies, and project evaluation and regulatory review procedures. At the time of the evaluation, the Maryland Coastal Program was also in the midst of a visioning exercise designed to better articulate the program’s niche and strategic direction.

The Maryland coastal zone is comprised of the land, water and subaqueous land between the territorial limits of Maryland in the Chesapeake Bay, coastal bays, and Atlantic Ocean, as well as the towns, cities, and counties that contain and help govern the coastline. It falls in two distinct regions: the Atlantic Coast, including the Atlantic Coastal Bays, and the Chesapeake Bay, which together represent thousands of miles of shoreline. The Maryland Coastal Zone extends from three miles out in the Atlantic Ocean to the inland boundaries of the sixteen counties bordering the Atlantic Ocean, Chesapeake Bay, and the Potomac River up to the District of Columbia. Local governments in the coastal zone include Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, Caroline, Charles, Cecil, Dorchester, Harford, Kent, Prince George’s, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, St. Mary’s, Talbot, Wicomico, and Worcester counties, and Baltimore City. This area encompasses two-thirds of the State’s land area and is home to almost seventy percent of Maryland’s residents.

It should be noted that while Maryland has a lot of shoreline, they have only a very small amount of beaches/ocean front. In addition, the State has jurisdiction over only a small amount of the ocean front, while the National Park Service and the Town of Ocean City have jurisdiction over the bulk of the ocean front lands.

The Coastal Program is currently focusing its efforts in three high-impact strategic themes, which include protecting and managing coastal habitats, improving coastal water quality, and supporting resilient communities. The Coastal Program supports growth management and climate change adaptation planning at the local level through the Coastal Smart Communities Initiative, which helps local jurisdictions identify and change codes and ordinances in ways that provide for smart and safe growth. An additional 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.

NOAA's latest evaluation of Maryland's Coastal Management Program can be found here.


  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, 1999.
  2. 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: Maryland
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