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

By the early 1980s, the Corps had developed a plan for a beach nourishment project at Ocean City. The goal was to provide protection from a "100-year" storm. This project was named the Atlantic Coast of Maryland (Ocean City) Shoreline Protection Project.

The state of Maryland agreed to carry out the first phase of the beach fill to create a recreational beach. In the summer of 1988, therefore, the state dredged offshore shoals and pumped the sand onto the shoreline at Ocean City where bulldozers spread it across the beach.

The Corps began the Federal portion of the project in the summer of 1990. The work consisted of building a steel bulkhead along the boardwalk at the southern end of town; widening the beach in front of the bulkhead; and adding a widened beach and dune line up to the Delaware state line. The Corps used the same offshore sand sources as the State, and the work was completed by the summer of 1991.

A series of very severe storms struck Ocean City between 1991 and 1992. One took place over Halloween in 1991, and the other happened in January of 1992. While the visible beach was significantly eroded after these storms, most of the fill material stayed in the nearshore waters. The post-storm surveys also confirmed that areas near shoreface-attached shoals exhibited more severe erosion than other areas. These locations are called "erosion hot spots."

An emergency fill was done in the summer of 1992. This had not been originally planned but it was deemed necessary to bring the beach back up to the level of protection specified in the plan. The beach nourishment project fulfilled its mission to protect the town from storms because there was virtually no damage to the landward developments during these events.

Intense storms continued through the early and mid 1990s, and another emergency fill was carried out in 1994. The project was accepted as complete in 1994, and renourishment has taken place every four years since 1994. Currently, renourishments are focused on the erosion hot spots near the shoreface-attached shoals.

Starting in 2004, Ocean City was also included in the Long-Term Sand Management Project (LTSM), which is primarily concerned with Assateague Island but also supplements the nourishment at Ocean City.

More: Ocean City | Ocean City Inlet | Assateague

Reviewed 27 Sep 2016

Ocean City on Fenwick Island

Ocean City on Fenwick Island
Source: IAN Image Library

Sand Management

Extensive sampling of potential sand sources and the native beach was conducted before the project began. Monitoring continued before and after the beach fill to evaluate the process of beach nourishment. The Ocean City beach nourishment project was one of the first large-scale applications of beach nourishment.

Adding sand to the littoral system has been much less detrimental than building structures that, like the Ocean City Inlet jetties, can damage areas in the wider region. The emphasis on solutions that consider a range of impacts on the coastal area is a cornerstone of regional sediment management.