State of the Beach/State Reports/VA/Beach Fill

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Virginia Ratings
Indicator Type Information Status
Beach Access65
Water Quality77
Beach Erosion4-
Erosion Response-5
Beach Fill6-
Shoreline Structures6 2
Beach Ecology4-
Surfing Areas58
Website7-


Policies

State, Territory, and Commonwealth Beach Nourishment Programs, A National Overview (NOAA, March 2000) provides the following information:

"The commonwealth has policies regarding beach nourishment.

Policy Citation and Description

Va. Code Ann. §10.1-704. The use of dredged material for beach nourishment is a priority. The beaches of the commonwealth are given priority consideration as sites for the disposal of dredged material determined to be suitable for beach nourishment. The Secretary of Natural Resources is responsible for determining whether the dredged material is suitable for beach nourishment.

Related Policies

Near Shore Sand Mining Regulations

Va. Code Ann. § 62.1-190. Prohibits dredging, digging or otherwise removing sand from the beach.

Dredge and Fill Regulations

Va. Code Ann. §10.1-704. Use of dredged material for beach nourishment is a priority. The beaches of the Commonwealth are given priority consideration as sites for the disposal of dredged material determined to be suitable for beach nourishment. The Secretary of Natural Resources is responsible for determining whether the dredged material is suitable for beach nourishment.

Va. Code Ann. §28.2-1200. Submerged Lands Act. It is unlawful for any person to build, dump, trespass or encroach upon or over, or take or use any materials from the beds of the bays, ocean, rivers, streams, or creeks which are property of the Commonwealth, unless such act is performed pursuant to a permit issued by the VA Marine Resources Commission.

Va. Code Ann. §28.2-1300. Wetlands Act. The wetlands zoning ordinance requires that any person who desires to use or develop any wetland shall file an application for a permit directly with the wetlands board or with the VA Marine Resources Commission.

Sand Scraping/Dune Reshaping Regulations

Va. Code Ann. §28.2-1400. Coastal Primary Sand Dune Act and Coastal Primary Sand Dunes/Beaches Guidelines, Virginia Marine Resources Commission. Requires permits on coastal primary dunes and beaches for uses other than certain specified activities based on state standards and guidelines. There shall be no permanent alteration of, or construction on, coastal primary sand dunes which would impair the natural functions of the dune or physically alter the contour of the dunes or destroy vegetation. Exceptions can be permitted when necessary and consistent with the public interest and listed in 28.2- 13.25(3).

Beach Nourishment Funding Program

There is state funding for beach nourishment projects provided for in Va. Code Ann. §10.1-709. A fund shall be established to provide grants to local governments covering up to one-half of the costs of erosion abatement measures designed to conserve, protect, improve, maintain and develop public beaches. No grants to any locality shall exceed thirty percent of the money appropriated to such fund for the biennium unless otherwise provided for in the current general appropriations act. Money appropriated from such fund shall be matched equally by local funds. Federal funds shall not be used by localities to match money given from the fund. Localities may, however, combine state and local funds to match federal funds for purposes of securing federal grants.

Amount of State Funding

Unknown.

Cost Share Requirements

Unknown."

The Coastal Primary Sand Dunes and Beaches Guidelines that were promulgated by the Marine Resources Commission as developed pursuant to Chapter 14 of Title 28.2 of the Code of Virginia are the primary documents guiding beach fill in Virginia.

A project that maintains its unconsolidated sandy material, enhances the buffer of the beach and does not interfere with the natural movement of sand would be considered a successful project.

The 2006 Virginia Coastal Assessment raises the following concerns regarding the potential impact of dredge and fill projects on offshore and coastal resources:

Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) manages beach renourishment projects. Advisory support for renourishment projects has changed from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science to the Division of Mineral Resources within DMME, though there are no anticipated future changes in project management. Sandbridge Shoal continues to supply beach renourishment material for the town of Virginia Beach and adjacent military installation at Dam Neck. However, Sandbridge Shoal is only expected to supply a limited amount of additional material before alternative sites must be located. To date, no comprehensive analysis for alternative sources of offshore sand for Virginia Beach has been conducted. However, there is some low-level funding from the Minerals Management Service for renourishment and alternative exploration projects. Other sources of sand may be found in the Bay area, as exemplified by the cities of Hampton and Norfolk which have beach nourishment programs using sources of sand in the Bay other than Sandbridge. The City of Hampton has been using sand from Horseshoe Shoal for their re-nourishment programs, while sand for Norfolk projects have generally come from dredging within the Bay. Smaller re- nourishment projects have also recently occurred in Charles City and Newport News.


Funding for monitoring these re-nourishment efforts are currently inadequate to assess the resource impacts from all dredging and renourishment projects on the Virginia coastline. For example, it is still unclear at this time if offshore sand resources are negatively affected from sand mining activities. Comprehensive monitoring is recommended to assess potential for sand bar effects and swings in the current flow.


An interesting situation developed in July 2011 when the City of Virginia Beach offered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers $15 million to pump sand on the Sandbridge beaches and the Corps refused the offer. At issue is a federal law that bans the Army Corps from accepting money for the entire cost of a coastal storm-damage project like Sandbridge’s from the local partner. More details. Later in July the U.S. House of Representatives approved a change to allow the Corps of Engineers to accept the money from the city. This change still needs Senate approval before it can take effect.

Inventory

Beach Fill at Virginia Beach

In Virginia Beach, beach fill occurs on a regular basis. It is the oldest continuous fill program (beginning in 1949) on the East Coast. Every year between 1949 and 2001, Virginia Beach added sand to its resort strip, to attract tourists and protect visitor-serving hotels and businesses.[1] The local government pays for much of the fill program, and it is actually a part of the annual budget. The city's cost for annual maintenance dredging of Rudee Inlet was $394,000 in 2002 (the federal government provides additional funds). In addition, the City owns a cutterhead dredge and has 21 employees working three shifts, seven days per week to maintain safe navigation in Rudee Inlet and to bypass sand to the Resort Beach. With a general south to north littoral transport, approximately 250,000 cubic yards of sand is dredged each year from Rudee Inlet and placed on the Resort Beach.[2]

The city and the Army Corps of Engineers spent $125 million for "Operation Big Beach" to widen the resort beach and to build a seawall and two pumping stations, beginning in 1996.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Virginia Beach completed a $20 million dollar refill project in 2002 to guard against erosion and protect its valuable tourism industry. The project involved dredging 4 million cubic yards of sand from the Thimble Shoals shipping channel and placing it along 6 miles of beach. All that sand — enough to fill 15,000 residential swimming pools — resulted in a beach that is more than 300 feet wide. That's more than triple the size of the beach in some spots prior to the fill project. The last time the beach was that wide was in the 1700s, according to old maps. The expanded beach is part of a five-year, $120 million erosion control and hurricane protection project managed by the city and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The project calls for an additional 1 million cubic yards every three or four years, as needed, for the next 50 years. The federal government picks up 65% of the cost.

The Corps of Engineers estimated that Operation Big Beach spared oceanfront properties from $82 million in damages during Hurricane Isabel.

In November 2011, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that they had included $6.8 million to replenish the Virginia Beach resort beach in its list of fiscal 2011 civil works projects. The corps previously allocated $2.2 million to the project. That brought the total federal allocation for the hurricane protection project to $9 million. That was the final funding action that Virginia Beach needed to move ahead with the beach replenishment. The city has already allocated $5 million for its share of the project. The total cost will be about $14 million. Work was anticipated to begin within about a year.

Beach fill at Sandbridge Beach in Virginia Beach (first fill was in 1998, costing $8 million) is funded through a Special Service Tax District where property owners pay an extra $0.12 property tax per $100 assessed valuation for beach fill. No city general fund monies are allotted for this fill. The second fill at Sandbridge for 2 million cubic yards of sand began in January 2003. Much like the Resort Beach, it is programmed for 1 million cubic yards every three or four years, as needed, for the next 50 years. The federal government picks up 65% of the cost. A third beach fill project at Sandbridge Beach was authorized by Congress in November 2005 when $3 million was allocated for this project as part of a total of $11.5 million allocated to Virginia Beach. The Virginia Beach allocation represents 12.5 percent of the $92 million allocated nationwide in 2005 for beach fill and storm-protection projects.

In November 2012 it was announced that another beach fill project in the Sandbridge Beach area would soon be commencing with the placement of 2 million cubic yards of sand along a five-mile stretch in Virginia Beach starting in December 2012. Work between the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge to the Dam Neck Naval Facility in Virginia Beach was expected to be completed by mid-May 2013. The contractor, Weeks Marine, submitted the lowest bid on the project at $15,350,000. This is the fifth replenishment contract the company has landed in Virginia Beach, three of which have focused at Sandbridge Beach. The first one called for 4 million cubic yards of sand . Previously in progress was an $11.9 million contract to place 1.25 million cubic yards of sand from the Thimble Shoals and Atlantic Ocean channels between 15th Street and 89th Street, making for a beach that is at least 300 feet wide. That work is part of the Virginia Beach Hurricane Protection Beach Re-nourishment project managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Ocean Park Beach in Virginia Beach has been replenished approximately three times from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lynnhaven Inlet Maintenance Dredging Operations. The cost for the dredging is funded by the Corps, while the City is responsible for the material placement costs.

In December 2012 the Army Corps of Engineers announced that they would dredge Rudee Inlet in Virginia Beach. The dredging was scheduled to begin within a few days and last for five days. About 20,000 cubic yards was expected to be dredged during the project and placed near shore north of the inlet's jetties. The project was estimated to cost about $175,000, with the federal government paying for about 72 percent of the cost.

Information on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects in Virginia is available through the ACOE Norfolk District Website. Projects are listed by area and also by category.

The Virginia Beach 2002 Beach Management Plan provides a discussion of historical beach fill activities and identified beach fill needs for beach in the city.

The following comments regarding beach fill in Virginia Beach were part of an address by Hugo R. Valverde of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission at a technical conference in 2001:

"With respect to Virginia Beach, two factors can be identified that set Virginia Beach apart from other replenished resort beaches. First, it has been primarily locally funded and locally administered, which has enabled it to carry out beach fill more efficiently. Data compiled by Duke University's Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines indicate that federal fill projects are consistently more expensive on a unit cost basis than non-federal projects. Virginia Beach has one of the lowest unit cost fill expenditures on the East Coast.


"Second, rather than depend on predictions made by complex models, Virginia Beach has primarily relied upon historical observations of how individual fill applications have performed over time. These observations led Virginia Beach to conclude early on that they needed to carry out fill on an annual basis. Several have recognized that the history of beach fill at Virginia Beach reveals that depositing a large amount of sand at one time, in an effort to reduce costs, does not eliminate the need for fill every year. Thus, while it may be more cost-effective in some locations to place a large amount of sand every 3 - 4 years, in Virginia Beach it appears that it is better to place smaller applications of sand on an annual basis.

"Carrying out fill on annual basis has avoided fill lifetime expectations, predicted by complex engineering models, from being disappointed. In addition, annual fill has ensured that there is always an adequate recreational beach to support Virginia Beach's largest industry, tourism."[3]


Orrin Pilkey, a professor of earth sciences at Duke University who specializes in beach erosion, said erosion would not be a problem if the shoreline had not been developed. If buildings were moved or demolished, a wide beach would always be present as the shoreline naturally retreats, he said. "We are the problem," he said. "The beachfront property owners are the problem. They irresponsibly build these massive buildings, and there they sit, waiting for us to help them. If I was king of Virginia, I would have those buildings down in a heartbeat."

David Basco, an Old Dominion University professor of civil and environmental engineering, said the wider the beach, the less damage there will be in a storm. Even when the sand erodes, it doesn't disappear, he said; it forms sand bars that help protect against storms. "You drive on a road to the beach, and the road has to be repaired," Basco said. "Think of the beach as infrastructure for storm protection and tourism. The benefits of maintaining it far outweigh the costs." Those benefits include providing recreation for the more than 425,000 residents of Virginia Beach, as well as tourists.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' had a Lynnhaven Inlet dredging project planned for 2009. Sand cleared from the inlet was to be piped onto two miles of beach between First Landing State Park and the Lesner Bridge. But some beachfront property owners don't want to grant even temporary construction access for the project, let alone permanent public recreation easements required to obtain federal funding for the project. If necessary, the city is prepared to use eminent domain to acquire the easements and pay for them.

UPDATE: On March 7, 2009 it was reported by the Virginian-Pilot that the city had gone to court to condemn portions of the Cape Henry beaches for the sand replenishment project. In documents filed in Circuit Court against six condominium associations and landowners, the city claims that the public has a right to use the beach for recreation. The city also wants access to the land for beach nourishment projects.

UPDATE: The "beach fill only if you give us access" game of chicken took a new turn in May/June 2009 when Virginia Beach officials reduced the scope of the Cape Henry beaches replenishment project by a fifth in order to get approval from the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. The latest plan is to place sand only between Jade Street and east to First Landing State Park.
UPDATE: In July 2009 the Virginia Beach Circuit Court ruled to allow the city to condemn some land along the Chesapeake Bay for the replenishment project and for public recreation and construction easements. The Virginia Marine Resources Commission then voted unanimously to expand the city’s initial sand replenishment permit from Jade Street west to the Lesner Bridge. The work is scheduled to start in August 2009 and last into November 2009.


The City of Norfolk conducted beach fill projects in the wake of Hurricane Isabel. By July 2005, the city had finished pumping 428,000 cubic yards of sand onto the beaches of Ocean View and Willoughby. But with that $3.8 million project completed, officials began to grapple with the reality that the problem will never go away. The city spent $8.5 million from 2002 to 2005 replenishing its 7-1/2-mile coastline. There is currently no federal funding for beach fill projects in Norfolk, but city officials are working on a study that they hope will convince Congress to pitch in. The study will focus on the jetties at Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base that may be contributing to the erosion problems.

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) Center for Coastal Resources Management, Wetlands Program maintains a comprehensive database of all shoreline permit applications received for Virginia. The database information is summarized each year in the Virginia Wetlands Report. The latest such issue is Spring 2012 Vol. 27 No. 1.

Also check out the VIMS CCRM searchable database which provides yearly for bulkheads, breakwaters, beach fill and many other categories. Additional information on beach fill in Virginia can be found here.

It was announced in November 2004 that Congress had eliminated more than $13 million in funding to rebuild beaches in Virginia Beach. In the wake of this decision, the city is considering other ways to foot the entire bill (rather than just 35%) for beach fill, such as creating a special tax district that would let the city use part of the increase in property tax revenues for projects within the district.


Information on beach fill in Virginia is also available through Western Carolina University's Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines. State-by-state information is available from the pull-down menu or by clicking on a state on the map on this page.

In 2017 the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) announced a new online National Beach Nourishment Database – featuring data on projects comprised of nearly 1.5 billion cubic yards of sand placed in nearly 400 projects covering the continental U.S. coastline. In addition to the total volume and the number of projects, the database includes the number of nourishment events, the oldest project, the newest project, the known total cost, the total volume and the known length. The information is broken into both state statistics and those of local or regional projects. Every coastal continental state is included (so Alaska and Hawaii are still being compiled), and projects along the Great Lakes are similarly waiting to be added.

A report National Assessment of Beach Nourishment Requirements Associated with Accelerated Sea Level Rise (Leatherman, 1989) on EPA's Climate Change Impacts and Adapting to Climate Change websites notes that the cumulative cost of sand replenishment to protect Virginia's coast from a 50 to 200 cm rise in sea level by 2100 is estimated at $201 million to $798 million.

The Fiscal Year 2017 Civil Works Budget for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provides $4.62 billion in gross discretionary funding for the Civil Works program. This budget lists proposed projects and the associated budget justification by state.

State, Territory, and Commonwealth Beach Nourishment Programs: A National Overview (2000) is a report NOAA/OCRM that provides an overview of the problem of beach erosion, various means of addressing this problem, and discusses issues regarding the use of beach nourishment. Section 2 of the report provides an overview of state, territorial, and commonwealth coastal management policies regarding beach nourishment and attendant funding programs. Appendix B provides individual summaries of 33 beach nourishment programs and policies.


Contact

Phil Roehrs
Public Works/Beach Management
City of Virginia Beach
2405 Courthouse Dr.
Municipal Center, Bldg. 2
Virginia Beach, VA 23456
Phone: (757) 427-4167

Lee Rosenberg
Environmental Services Manager
City of Norfolk
810 Union Street
Norfolk, VA 23510
(757) 664-4373
Email: lee.rosenberg@norfolk.gov
http://www.norfolk.gov/Planning/

Footnotes

  1. Ward, Larry G., Peter S. Rosen, William J. Neal, Orrin H. Pilkey, Jr., Orrin H. Pilkey, Sr., Gary L. Anderson, and Stephen J. Howie. Living with Chesapeake Bay and Virginia's Ocean Shores. Duke University Press: Durham, 1989.
  2. Jay Bernas, City of Virginia Beach. Personal communication. March 2003
  3. Valverde, Hugo R. Physical and Environmental Planning, Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, 723 Woodlake Drive, Chesapeake, VA 23452, valverde@hrpdc.org History of Beach Fill in Virginia Beach, Virginia: Is Bigger Always Better? GSA Southeastern Section - 50th Annual Meeting (April 5-6, 2001).



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