Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Educational series; no. 31


Virginia has over 5,000 miles of tidal shoreline. Several different shore types occur in the Tidewater region including the low-lying barrier islands of the Eastern Shore, the ocean front headland-barrier spit of southeastern Virginia, and the shores of the Chesapeake Bay and other estuaries which range from high bluffs to tidal marshes. In order to put shore erosion in proper perspective as a natural phenomenon, one must examine the recent geologic history of the region.

Much of shoreline erosion is a direct product of high energy storms like hurricanes and northeasters. The rate and amount of erosion along a specific shoreline may vary from year to year. The rate of erosion will depend upon the following factors: (1) storm frequency; (2} storm type and direction; (3) storm intensity and duration; and (4) resulting wind tides, currents, and waves. Also, the presence of man-made structures (bulkheads, groins, etc.) will modify the erosion process, increasing or decreasing it to a degree depending on the type, location, design, etc., of the structure (O'Connor, et al., 1978}.

The problem of shoreline erosion is most acute when coastal property with improvements is threatened by a rapidly receding shore bank. Many waterfront properties are bought and developed each year with little or no consideration of the shoreline situation. Consequently, additional money must be spent for erosion protection structures.

Shoreline protection structures must be adequately designed and correctly placed to be effective under the severest of storm conditions. Inadequate installation or design may result in failure or deleterious effects to adjacent waterfront properties. In many cases a structure is not needed and protection of a shore bank may be accomplished by vegetative means, such as the planting of appropriate grasses, shrubs or vines to stabilize the bank, beach or nearshore area.

Virginia's coast is a dynamic and active environment as well as a beautiful place to live. Sound judgement in coastal development is essential to effective control of shoreline erosion.



Coast changes -- Virginia; Shorelines -- Virginia; Shore protection -- Virginia

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.