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

Ocean City Inlet

The Corps began a rehabilitation project on the south jetty in 1984 to repair damages incurred since the 1960s. This project filled holes in the jetty and added a new section to it.

These actions were designed to prevent sediment from entering the inlet, thereby reducing channel shoaling, but they also had the potential to aggravate erosion along northern Assateague. In response, the Corps built three breakwaters along the northern coast of the island to dissipate wave energy in the inlet and prevent erosion from becoming even worse.

By 1990 the ebb-tidal shoal was over a mile wide, and it merged with the northern end of Assateague around this time. The shoal stopped acting as a sand sink and became a sand source. Sediment was transferred across the shoal to the island's shore, and the shoals' sand bars were pushed by waves against the shore. Shoreline retreat rates slowed to about 20 feet per year.

The south jetty was again strengthened in 2002 to keep sediment out of the channel and to ensure that the structure wasn't damaged. Since the implementation of the Long-Term Sand Management project in 2004, the channel has been dredged twice yearly, which keeps it clear for boats and provides sediment for the beach nourishment projects in the region.

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Reviewed 18 Jan 2013

Ocean City Inlet

Ocean City Inlet
Source: IAN Image Library

Erosion

By the 1990s, after the repairs to the jetties, the adding of the breakwaters, and the ebb-tidal shoal reaching equilibrium, it was still evident that erosion of the northern end was a significant and multifaceted problem.