Erosion of Maine's beaches and dunes

Coastal erosion and associated flooding from storm events can damage property and infrastructure. Erosion also compromises the ability of beaches protect neighboring property, provide habitat for plants and wildlife, and accomodate recreation and attract tourism.

 

Erosion problems in Maine are generally caused by a persistent rise in sea level, storms, changes in sand availability, and the construction of jetties and seawalls.

10% of Maine’s beaches are highly erosional, disappearing at a rate of more than two feet per year. Some of these beaches have seawalls along the frontal dune, while few have no seawalls. Most are in need of beach replenishment to replace eroded sand. Many of these shorelines have no beach for about half of the tidal cycle.

50% of Maine’s beaches are moderately erosional, with erosion rates of one to two feet per year. Along some of these beaches where seawalls are present, the seawalls are regularly overtopped during winter coastal storms, and a limited number of seawalls have been undermined during severe coastal storms. In some areas, local overtopping occurs once or twice a year in winter, but is usually restricted to limited areas of beachfront properties. Natural beaches in this category have chronic dune scarps (steep drop-offs) and frontal dune erosion. Some beaches have exposed gravel berms and limited recreational opportunities at high tide.

About 40% of southern Maine beaches are only slightly erosional.

Maine Geological Survey prepared a table that generalizes the status of many of southern Maine’s beaches. This information is taken directly from Appendix B of the Protecting Maine’s Beaches for the Future (2006) report. This table is meant to provide more information about the general characteristics of some of Maine’s beaches, including development status, beach replenishment history, shoreline armoring status, shoreline change status, and public ownership.