How do I know if the beach is eroding (and posing a hazard to my property?)

A checklist has been developed to help you identify and rank beach and dune hazards, using the maps and other resources in this guide and by conducting a field inventory of your property.

Download Beach, Dune & Coastal Flooding checklist - 43KB

You may have a moderately to severely eroding beach and frequent or recurring problem if:

  • Your beach has eroded more than 1 foot per year.
  • Your beach or dunes are continually eroding. Look for signs of continued dune lowering and loss with no recovery after storm season, continued beach lowering in front of seawalls, and direct evidence of beach movement.
  • Figure 8.You have a narrow, dry beach (less than 25 feet) with small dunes or a seawall. Typically, seawalls were placed in areas that underwent ongoing erosion before regulations restricted their construction.
  • You see direct evidence of beach movement (“transgression”).  Exposed tree roots or peat deposits on the beach are signs that surf zone has moved landward to the backside of the beach. Note that presence of these features may only occur after large storms; if they are present from year-to-year, this may indicate a recurring problem.
  • You experience frequent overwash and flooding on a frequent basis (i.e., several times a winter) in response to small storm events.
  • You experience chronic structure (seawall, bulkhead) damage.  Chronic damage to a shore protection structure indicates that the beach is attempting to move in a landward direction.
  • You are located in certain FEMA flood zones, where breaking waves and coastal flooding occur across the extent of the beach. 
  • You are located next to an inlet that migrates on a regular basis.  Proximity to a tidal inlet that migrates can increase the erosion hazard of the beach and dune.

You may have a generally stable beach or slightly erosional beach and minor isolated erosion and flooding problem if:

  • Your beach or dune is stable or growing seaward.
  • Your beach or dune is eroding slightly, less than 1 foot per year.
  • You have a wide, dry beach (greater than 50 feet) and large dunes.
  • Your beach or dune erodes during large storms but is able to recover within a year or two.
  • You experience isolated overwash and flooding, only after large storms.
  • You are not located in a mapped at-risk flood zone. If you are not located in one of these zones, you likely don’t have flood insurance because your overall risk of coastal flooding is low, although isolated flooding problems may still occur.

Watch for updates to flood zones. Flood risk changes over time, and as a result FEMA is updating flood hazard maps across the country. See the maps page for more information.

Pine Point Beach in Scarborough is an example of a stable beach and coastal sand dune with minimal coastal flood hazards from the ocean side.