Dynamic Sustainability: Maryland's Atlantic Coast

Photo of ponies on Assateague Island


Ocean City and Assateague Island

Dynamic Sustainability: Shoreline Management on Maryland's Atlantic Coast

1981-2007, New Principles Enacted with a Systems Approach

Assateague Island

A new management plan for Assateague Island National Seashore was drafted in the early 1980s that advocated a middle road between development and wilderness preservation. The plan decreed that recreational facilities could be protected with artificially maintained dunes, but in general overwash and the natural westward migration of the island would not be prevented.

After the storm in January of 1992, officials and residents became concerned that the island would be breached, which could expose mainland communities to storm damage. Studies began in the 1990s to tackle a number of water resource issues including erosion, channel shoaling, and environmental degradation in the bays. The Corps, NPS, the State, and other stakeholders saw these problems as interconnected and thus wanted to develop solutions that dealt with these problems on a regional scale.

In 2002, a one-time, large-scale beach fill was placed onto the beach at the northern end of the island. The second phase of the project became the Long-Term Sand Management (LTSM) Project. It entailed biannual sand bypassing in the nearshore waters along the northern end. Essentially this would replicate the natural process of sediment transport that was being interrupted by the Ocean City Inlet jetties.

The biannual dredge-and-placement operations have continued since 2004, and both the Corps and NPS have been monitoring the beach's response. Analysis of the data is ongoing and an updated sediment budget is expected by the end of the decade.

Two environmental restoration projects have been carried out. Wetland restoration at Isle of Wight has added sediment and salt marsh grasses to this small island along with shoreline protection structures and a recreational pier. Ocean Pines is a mainland location where low and high salt marshes were restored successfully.

In summary, these beach nourishment projects and their development through the late 20th and early 21st centuries demonstrate how the Corps principles have evolved. Dredging and navigation have remained key components of the Corps mission, but storm protection, environmental restoration, and an emphasis on regional solutions also developed during this time.

More: Ocean City | Ocean City Inlet | Assateague

Reviewed 27 Sep 2016

Assateague Island

Assateague Island
Source: IAN Image Library

Sand Sources

Three sand sources were identified for the LTSM project so that no one source would be significantly damaged. One of those sources was the channel itself, so by combining maintenance dredging and beach nourishment, this project would keep the navigation channel clear and counteract erosion at the same time, thereby saving costs.

Regional Sediment Management

A comprehensive understanding of coastal systems and their interconnectedness inspired the Corps to continually investigate new approaches to coastal management. Environmental preservation, long-term sustainability, and increased efficiency became central to the shoreline management projects on Maryland's Atlantic coast. These exemplify the principles of regional sediment management.