State of the Beach/State Reports/VA

From Beachapedia

Home Beach Indicators Methodology Findings Beach Manifesto State Reports Chapters Perspectives Model Programs Bad and Rad Conclusion



A major statewide planning effort was completed in 2007 with the publication of the 2007 Virginia Outdoors Plan, designed to meet the state's outdoor recreation and open space needs. Virginia Beach has begun acquiring properties identified in the 2000 Virginia Beach Outdoors Plan, which should increase public coastal access. The 2002 Beach Management Plan for Virginia Beach puts a priority on resolving beach ownership issues to facilitate both increased public access and to allow beach fill projects to proceed. Statewide inventories of coastal erosion, beach fill projects and shoreline structures, some of which are in progress, would facilitate public education and the development of policies to respond to erosion problems. Virginia Department of Health has very good beach monitoring information on their website.

Virginia Ratings


(+) Virginia has a stringent policy that prohibits shoreline hardening under all circumstances.

(+) The Coastal Primary Sand Dune and Beach Act affords protection for a large area of beaches and dunes along the shoreline.

(+) In March 2015 US EPA issued an assessment of Virginia's efforts to control runoff of pollutants from agricultural operations into the Chesapeake Bay watershed. A press release for the assessment stated:

"The assessment found that Virginia has a robust and well-implemented Virginia Pollutant Abatement Program (VPA) that covers the majority of poultry and swine operations in the Commonwealth. Virginia issued its first two Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (VPDES) permits to concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in February 2015. EPA will continue to work with Virginia to ensure that facilities needing VPDES CAFO permits obtain them. The assessment also found that Virginia is relying heavily on voluntary programs to achieve the nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution reduction targets in the Chesapeake Bay TMDL and the Virginia WIP. EPA is encouraged by the response of Virginia farmers to participate in programs such as the stream exclusion cost-share program and the Resource Management Plan program."

(+) The Virginia Beach City Council voted in March 2012 to buy most of a 122-acre swath of waterfront property known as Pleasure House Point. The $13 million deal effectively preserves the last major piece of undeveloped land on the Lynnhaven River. The purchase is funded in part through conservation grants, donations and a low-interest loan from the state. Read more.

(+) 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 the most 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.

(+) A $149 million state Water Quality Improvement Fund created to help local governments reduce pollution to the Chesapeake Bay remained intact after the funding was restored by the Legislature’s Committee of Conference in a budget approved March 2009 by the General Assembly. This is in contrast to the situation in states like New York and North Carolina where environmental funds have been raided to balance the budget.

(+) On Feb. 22, 2008, Governor Kaine signed legislation to help protect coastal resources by expanding the reach of the Coastal Primary Sand Dunes and Beaches Act from the original nine localities to the entire Virginia coastal zone. The result is added protection for approximately 1,300 estuarine beaches and dunes that encompass about 75 miles of shoreline along 24 additional counties and 14 cities.

(+) The Virginia Resources Authority and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality were recognized in late 2007 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for excellent work in the area of water quality protection with a Performance and Innovation in the SRF (Clean Water States Revolving Fund) Creating Environmental Success, or PISCES, award. The award was granted for Virginia's creation of a fund that will provide $250 million per year over five years aimed specifically at improving water quality in Virginia's portion of the Bay watershed. Recognition was also given to Virginia's efforts to provide low-interest loans to farmers so that they can implement best-management practices on their farms that will directly impact water quality.

(+) A proposed program to allow the use of treated wastewater for irrigation, industrial cooling, livestock quenching, dust control, fire protection, car washing, street cleaning and office toilet flushing was unanimously approved by the State Water Control Board in 2007.

(+) Governor Timothy Kaine announced in December 2006 that he would introduce legislation authorizing $250 million in bonds to upgrade sewage treatment plants throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The bonds will provide funds to share the costs with localities for installing technologies that will reduce nutrient pollution discharged into Virginia waters. The sewage treatment plant upgrades made possible by these funds will prevent an estimated four million pounds of nitrogen compounds from entering Virginia's rivers that flow into the Bay.

(+) Since 1991 the Coastal Program has helped to acquire and preserve over 1,800 acres of coastal lands, including wetlands, sand dune systems, lowland and upland riparian buffers, and other wildlife habitat areas. During the period from October 2005 through September 2006, 22 new public access sties were added in the coastal area.

(+) In 2001, Virginia received full approval of its Coastal Non-point Pollution Control Program from NOAA and EPA. This approval makes Virginia eligible to retain full funding under the Coastal Zone Management Act and Section 319 of the Clean Water Act.

(+) The Virginia Clean Marina Program was launched in 2001. The Program is a voluntary initiative designed to educate and give technical support and special recognition to marinas that implement Best Management Practices (BMPs) that go above and beyond regulatory requirements.

(+) Environmentally sensitive site design, which can minimize land disturbance, preserve indigenous vegetation and minimize impervious surface and runoff, is the objective of Better Site Design guidance documents developed by Virginia's Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance Department.

(+) The Northampton County Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) and other SAMPs are tools used by the Virginia Coastal Program to protect significant coastal resources.

(+) The Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) - Center for Coastal Resources Management, Wetlands Program maintains a comprehensive database of permitted structures and other shoreline projects.

(+) Virginia passed a $119 million Virginia Parks and Natural Areas Bond in November 2002 to acquire property and enhance public access in the state, including areas on the Atlantic Coast.

(+) Virginia Beach has one access point every 450 feet of coastline.

(+) The brochure Shoreline Erosion Problems? Think Green helps ensure that nonstructural alternatives to shoreline erosion are considered and illustrates how using marsh grasses can secure property and benefit water quality and wildlife. A field version of the Erosion and Sediment Control Handbook was developed and over 4,000 copies have been distributed.

(+) A survey in 2004 indicated that 63% of registered Virginia voters would pay $1 more per week to help clean up Chesapeake Bay.

(0) In 2002, Virginia initiated a state level beach monitoring program. For the 2003 beach season, monitoring continued at Norfolk and Virginia Beach. In addition, weekly beach monitoring began at several other beaches.

(0) The City of Virginia Beach placed 4 million cubic yards of sand between Rudee Inlet and 89th Street as part of the Beach Erosion Control and Hurricane Protection Project. The five-year plan will cost $120 million. The federal government will pick up 65% of the cost.

(0) In 2005 there were over 3 million overnight visitors to Virginia Beach.

(0) Although only 29 percent of Virginia's land area lies within the coastal zone, more than 60 percent of Virginia's citizens call it home.

(-) There is no statewide sea level rise or climate change adaptation plan. There are several assessments and plans done locally, but nothing comprehensive that covers the entire state.

(-) The state readily does sand replenishment without any real restrictions or analysis of effectiveness or environmental impact. Sand replenishment is authorized by default according to the Code of Virginia.

(-) Gov. Tim Kaine proposed in late 2007 to eliminate $400,000 of monitoring and assessment projects conducted by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the U.S. Geological Survey and Old Dominion University for Chesapeake Bay. The cuts contrast with increases in funding in Maryland, where legislators authorized $50 million to clean up pollution in the bay.

(-) The City of Virginia Beach scored an F (50 out of 100 points) on a scorecard from the Center for Watershed Protection for its efforts to protect water quality in 2006. In response, the city's Green Ribbon Committee recommended that the City Council adopt rules to reduce erosion and require the treatment of storm water. The committee recommended that the city reduce fees for building permits and stormwater work as an incentive for developers to use less asphalt on their projects.

(-) Virginia amended the Code of Virginia by adding a section 28.2-1408.1, relating to the standards for use of coastal protective structures. The act states that owners of homes in Sandbridge Beach shall not be prohibited from erecting and maintaining protective bulkheads or other equivalent structural improvements. It is possible that additional similar acts could be passed in Virginia to modify the current strict regulations regarding shoreline protection structures.

(-) Virginia's State Water Control Board is considering relaxing the current freshwater bacteria standard from 126 E. coli per 100 ml to 206 E. coli per 100 ml.

(-) Statewide, on average there is at best one public access site for every 5 miles of shoreline.

(-) Of the 66 additional public water access sites called for in the Chesapeake Bay Agreement in 2000, only 15 sites had been developed by 2004.

(-) Virginia ranks last among states in spending on the environment and conservation. A federal report on the Chesapeake Bay program indicates that between 1995 and 2004, Virginia spent only about 40 percent as much as Maryland on Chesapeake Bay environmental programs.

(-) Virginia issued permits to harden around 220 miles of its tidal shoreline between 1993 and 2004. On average, about 18.5 miles of new shoreline structures have been added to Virginia’s shoreline yearly since 2004.

(-) Virginia is the third-most-threatened state (behind Texas and Louisiana) for damage from rising sea levels.


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • VA Gov Kaine Rejects Oil Drilling Bill The Virginia Beach chapter is proud of their role in helping convince Governor Mark Warner to veto legislation that would have lifted a moratorium on oil and gas drilling off the Virginia coast.
  • The VB chapter joined together with other local groups to form the VB Surfing Partnership. The partnership has helped change local surfing rules and regulations and has also provided the method for which the surfing zones are designated in Croatan.

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

State of the Beach Report: Virginia
Virginia Home Beach Description Beach Access Water Quality Beach Erosion Erosion Response Beach Fill Shoreline Structures Beach Ecology Surfing Areas Website
2011 7 SOTB Banner Small.jpg