Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Seventeen of Virginia's coastal localities were analyzed to determine the extent of their beach resources presently not being managed by the Coastal Primary Sand Dunes and Beaches Act1 (Dune Act). Aerial video of the James River (Isle of Wight, Surry, and Prince George, Charles City, James City, and Newport News), the York River (York, New Kent, King William, King and Queen, and Gloucester), the Rappahannock River (Middlesex, Essex, and Richmond), and the Potomac River (Westmoreland, King George, and Stafford) determined the extent of beaches in each locale. The localities studied are shown in Figure 1. The Dune Act manages dunes in eight Virginia localities, Accomack, Hampton, Lancaster, Mathews, Norfolk, Northampton, Northumberland, and Virginia Beach and as such were not part of this project. This project is intended to provide guidance on the amount of beach resources not being managed presently in localities outside the eight jurisdictional localities of the Dune Act. As defined by the code of Virginia ( § 28.2-1400), “Beach” means the shoreline zone comprised of unconsolidated sandy material upon which there is a mutual interaction of the forces of erosion, sediment transport, and deposition that extends from the low water line landward to where there is a marked change in either material composition or physiographic form such as a dune, bluff, or marsh or where no such change can be identified, to the line of woody vegetation (usually the effective limit of storm waves), or the nearest impermeable manmade structure, such as a bulkhead, revetment, or paved road. For this report, this definition of beaches was used. Non-vegetated wetlands are defined by Code of Virginia as un-vegetated lands lying contiguous to mean low water (MLW) and between mean low water and mean high water (MHW) ( § 28.2-1300). Since beaches, as defined above, must have sand above MHW to some landward limit, the many instances where vegetation extends to MHW were not counted as beach shoreline. They were considered the vegetated part of the intertidal zone or non-vegetated wetlands, but not a beach. In addition to determining the distribution of beaches in the non-jurisdictional localities, this project also tallied a specific set of descriptors of the beaches. The measurements and parameters were input to a Geographic Information System (GIS) for ease of viewing and summarizing. From these data, individual locality data were summarized. In addition, site types were grouped by region or river system to determine beach type frequency.



Beaches, Shore Protection, Tidewater Virginia


This project was funded by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s Coastal Resources Management Program through Grant NA04NOS4190060 of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, under the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, as amended.



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