State of the Beach/State Reports/VA/Beach Description

From Beachapedia

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

Virginia Ratings
Indicator Type Information Status
Beach Access65
Water Quality77
Beach Erosion4-
Erosion Response-5
Beach Fill6-
Shoreline Structures6 2
Beach Ecology4-
Surfing Areas58
Coastal Development{{{19}}}{{{20}}}
Sea Level Rise{{{21}}}{{{22}}}


Virginia's coastal zone includes 5,000 miles of shoreline, four tidal rivers reaching as far as 100 miles inland, the Chesapeake Bay and Albemarle - Pamlico Sound watersheds, and the Atlantic Ocean coastline. Natural and cultural features range widely - from the wild, undeveloped beaches of the barrier islands to the "hard" shoreline of Hampton Roads' port facilities.

Virginia's open ocean shoreline lies mainly in the Virginia Beach area and the unspoiled barrier islands of the "Eastern Shore" in Accomack and Northampton Counties. The beaches in Virginia Beach are mainland sandy beaches.

The Virginia coastal zone possesses a wealth of natural assets. The land is fertile, the climate is moderate, the estuaries and coastal ocean are productive, and the setting is a world-class harbor in the middle of one of the world's greatest civilized seacoasts. The coastal zone supports a mix of resource based industries including forestry products, agriculture, mining and commercial fisheries. In addition, natural resources provide the basis for significant and growing recreational activities including hunting, boating, and bird watching.[1] For more details on the coastal resources of Virginia, go to the links provided at

Contact Info for the Lead Coastal Zone Management Agency

Virginia Coastal Program
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
629 E. Main Street, 6th floor
Richmond, VA 23219
Phone: (804) 698-4320
Fax: (804) 698-4319

Coastal Zone Management Program

Virginia's coastal zone encompasses the eastern third of the state, including the Chesapeake Bay and its tributary rivers, part of the Albemarle-Pamlico watershed, and the Atlantic coast with its vast barrier island lagoon system.

The Virginia Coastal Resources Management Program, more commonly referred to as the Virginia Coastal Program, supports its coastal residents and industries, and the plants and animals that rely on these coastal habitats. Of specific concern are polluted runoff, habitat protection, riparian buffers, wetlands, fisheries, sustainable development, waterfront redevelopment, septic systems, and erosion and sediment control. Shipping, tourism, and commercial and recreational fishing are important industries for coastal Virginia.

Federal approval of its Coastal Program qualifies Virginia to receive funding under the federal Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, as amended. Virginia is awarded funds based on the size of its population and the length of its tidal shoreline, and currently receives about $3 million annually through NOAA's Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. Since its incorporation in 1986, Virginia has received almost $40 million dollars in federal CZMA funds. These funds are available on an annual basis to the Virginia Coastal Program's partners - state agencies, PDCs and local governments - for implementation of the Program. Here is information on how this funding was used in 2009.

In 2010, the Virginia Coastal Program conducted a needs assessment in nine areas of coastal zone management - wetlands, public access, coastal hazards, cumulative and secondary impacts, energy and government facility siting, marine debris, ocean resources, special area management plans and aquaculture. This assessment was used to identify the Commonwealth's priority needs for improvement in these areas - also referred to as "coastal enhancement areas". The Virginia Coastal Program then developed 5-year strategies to address improvements to the areas of high priority need. The needs assessment and strategy document was approved by NOAA in April 2011. Match-free funding for these strategies is provided by NOAA through the Coastal Zone Management Act.

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


  1. Virginia Coastal Program, Department of Environmental Quality, State of Virginia's Coast, 2001
  2. Bernd-Cohen, T. and Gordon, M. "State Coastal Program Effectiveness in Protecting Natural Beaches, Dunes, Bluffs, and Rock Shores." Coastal Management 27:187-217, 1999.
  3. Bernd-Cohen, T. and Gordon, M. "State Coastal Program Effectiveness in Protecting Natural Beaches, Dunes, Bluffs, and Rock Shores." Coastal Management 27:187-217, 1999.

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