Nourish or "scrape" the beach

Beach scraping uses mechanical equipment to scrape sand from the lower part of the beach up to or just below the sand dune. Beach scraping is only a temporary measure to try to protect upland property during a storm. A Maine DEP permit is required for beach scraping, and additional restrictions may be imposed in terms of timing (typically between April 1 and September 1) by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Beach nourishment is defined as the artificial addition of sand, gravel or other similar natural material to a beach or subtidal area adjacent to a beach and is governed by the Coastal Sand Dune Rules.

Beach nourishment can be an effective, temporary response to coastal erosion, though it tends to be costly, and its effectiveness is generally short-lived (5 years or less), especially in areas with high erosion rates. Generally, there are two sources of material in Maine that have been used for beach nourishment:

  1. “beneficial reuse” of dredged material, usually in conjunction with a federal (US Army Corps of Engineers) dredging project of navigable waterways; and
  2. upland sourcing of material, typically from a gravel pit, where trucks are used to transport material from an upland source to the beach.

Scraping Popham beach

Generally, if the US Army Corps dredges a project and the material is considered to be clean, beach-compatible sand, the beneficial reuse of dredged materials as beach nourishment is encouraged. If beach nourishment is considered to be a least cost alternative for disposal of the dredged material, the costs of dredging and material placement are borne by the federal government. If not, some cost-matching by a local sponsor (typically the receiving community) is required for the Corps to proceed with a project.

Private beach nourishment projects using dredged material – either from an adjacent river channel or other offshore source – have not been undertaken in Maine. One of the reasons for this is cost: finding, dredging, and transporting material can run between $10-20 per cubic yard of sand, depending on source and its proximity to the nourishment site.

Follow the steps below to gain the environmental and regulatory information needed for decision making. The steps are listed in general order although some steps may be conducted concurrently.

1) Contact local, state and/or federal regulatory officials. Begin by working with your local code enforcement office to determine if your property is in a FEMA-mapped flood zone and if so, what building requirements apply. 

2) Obtain an environmental assessment from a certified engineer or other qualified professional with expertise in coastal geology. In most cases local, state, and/or federal regulators can help direct you to the best professional discipline to assist with your specific project. Sometimes it is helpful to have the consultant completing the environmental assessment and the construction contractor present at regulatory consultation meetings.

3) Evaluate your risk. Check your insurance coverage to make sure you have adequate liability coverage related to loss due to shoreline erosion, as well as flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program.

4) If beach scraping or nourishment is planned within 75 feet of Highest Annual Tide (HAT) or within a mapped sand dune system, develop  a site stabilization plan. The plan does not need to be prepared by a professional in all cases; however, a good, clear plan can improve the efficiency and timeliness of any permitting that may be required. Good plans also will be beneficial to the construction contractor and can help avoid costly mistakes during the construction process.

5) Be Neighborly. If the plan involves work at or near a property boundary, consider sharing the plan with the abutter(s) to make sure they fully understand the work to be performed and the potential impact to their property. This consultation is a courtesy at this stage, and not a regulatory mandate; however, obtaining “buy in” from abutter(s) can potentially avoid neighbor disputes that may lead to costly permitting and/or construction delays.

6) Need a local permit? Share plans with local code enforcement in order to determine what, if any, town ordinances may need to be followed when moving structures. Local shoreland zoning requirements will determine the acceptable location(s) for structures.

7) Need a state permit? If the plan involves alterations within 75 feet of highest annual tide (HAT), within or adjacent to another protected natural resource as defined by the Maine Natural Resources Protection Act such as a sand dune, or within a development permitted by the Site Location of Development Act, a state permit will likely be required. When possible, plan to meet standards of a permit-by-rule to simplify the state regulatory review process; otherwise an individual permit may be required. Alterations to a development or a lot within a development permitted under the Site Location of Development Act may require the revision or amendment of the development’s permit.

8) Need a federal permit? If the plan involves work below the highest annual tide (HAT) and/or in a freshwater wetland or habitat for endangered or threatened species, a federal permit(s) under the Federal Clean Water Act and Rivers and Harbors Act may be required. Share the plan with all applicable federal authorities in order to determine what permits may be necessary.

9) Hire qualified contractors who are experienced with the best practices associated with construction in or adjacent to natural resources.