State of the Beach/State Reports/NH/Beach Description

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New Hampshire Ratings
Indicator Type Information Status
Beach Access86
Water Quality89
Beach Erosion3-
Erosion Response-5
Beach Fill2-
Shoreline Structures8 3
Beach Ecology3-
Surfing Areas35
Coastal Development{{{19}}}{{{20}}}
Sea Level Rise{{{21}}}{{{22}}}


New Hampshire features 18 miles of coastline along the Atlantic Ocean and more than 230 miles of sensitive tidal shoreline. Approximately 60 percent of the Atlantic shoreline, composed of sandy beaches, dunes, rocky shores and harbors, is owned or managed by the state. The inclusion of tidal wetlands increases state ownership or management of the land within 1,000 feet of the coast to 77 percent. Development is prohibited in tidal wetlands areas, providing significant protection for natural habitat and open space. While most of New Hampshire’s coastal sand dunes were destroyed through development prior to state regulation, three remaining dune areas in Hampton Beach and Seabrook have been restored to provide visual and physical access and to serve as buffers against storm surge. The Portsmouth Harbor and Piscataqua River area is a revitalized urban waterfront composed of shops, restaurants and historic sites that support tourism and water-dependent industries such as the state-owned commercial fishing pier, port terminal and private energy facilities. Great Bay is an inland tidal estuary surrounded by limited development. The Great and Little Bay estuarine system includes more than 800 acres of saltmarsh and covers approximately 17 square miles. Here is a map of New Hampshire's coastal zone.

Contact Info for the Lead Coastal Zone Management Agency

NH Coastal Program
Watershed Management Bureau
Department of Environmental Services
PO Box 95
Concord, NH 03302-0095
Phone (603) 271-8811
Fax (603) 271-7894

Ted Diers
Program Manager
(603) 559-0027

Mary Power
Executive Secretary
(603) 559-1500

NH Coastal Program
50 International Drive, Suite 200
Pease Tradeport
Portsmouth, NH 03801
(603) 559-1500

NH Coastal Program
Dept. of Environmental Services
PO Box 95
29 Hazen Drive
Concord, NH 03302-0095

Coastal Zone Management Program

The NH Coastal Program gained federal approval in 1982 and is now administered by the Department of Environmental Services.

NHCP’s mission is to “balance the preservation of natural resources of the coast with social and economic needs of this and succeeding generations.”

NHCP gained federal approval in 1982 under the provisions of the Coastal Zone Management Act, initially for the areas in proximity to the Atlantic shore and the lower Piscataqua River. In 1988, the Program added areas bordering the Great Bay and tidal rivers, but only up to the statutory (RSA 482-A) limits for tidal flow. In 2004, the landward boundary was again expanded to encompass the total area of the 17 tidal municipalities.

The 42 communities that make up the watershed are linked by waterways back to the 17 tidal coastal coastal communities and ultimately to the Gulf of Maine.

DES administers NHCP. NHCP is networked with other state agencies, which help enforce the program’s 16 coastal policies and conduct reviews of projects in the New Hampshire coastal zone.

NOAA's latest evaluation of New Hampshire'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.

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