Tales of the Coast
Coastal Histories


Dynamic Sustainability: Maryland's Atlantic Coast

Ocean City and Assateague Island

Dynamic Sustainability: Shoreline Management on Maryland's Atlantic Coast

2008 and Onward

Ocean City

The sediment sources for the Ocean City project will be exhausted by 2010, but the project is scheduled to continue through 2044. Therefore, in 2001 a general reevaluation study was initiated to identify new sediment sources. This study was published in 2008 and it identified three offshore shoals for use in the project that met all the physical and environmental qualifications.

It was decided that dredging small amounts from multiple shoals was better than significantly impacting just one shoal, which could then alter waves in the area and even lead to increased shoreline erosion or degraded fish habitats. The study also decreed that each shoal would be continually monitored for its importance as a fishing ground.

It is important that the beach nourishment plan be equipped to maintain the beach for storm protection and recreation because it is likely that Ocean City's population will continue to grow. The beach will also remain crucial for the support of jobs and tax revenues.


Ocean City Inlet

Under the Long-Term Sand Management Project, Ocean City Inlet is dredged twice a year to maintain the channel for commercial and recreational boats. The dredging of the ebb-tidal shoal for the sand bypassing at Assateague Island is also an important coastal management activity taking place at the inlet.

To keep the shoal in equilibrium, and therefore acting as a natural sand source for Assateague Island, the Corps and private contractors have been using state-of-the-art underwater mapping techniques to monitor the shape of the shoal and its response to dredging. They have also been carefully dredging only the outer edge of the shoal, not the crest, so as to not create any holes that would naturally fill in with sand.


Assateague Island

The biannual sand bypassing appears to be stabilizing northern Assateague Island, although monitoring data is currently being analyzed. The goal is not to stop all erosion or movement of the island, however; the objective is to mitigate the damage from the jetties and mimic the natural processes that would be taking place if the jetties were not there.

Depending on the results of the continual monitoring, the sediment budget may be altered to maintain the island's dynamic nature while preventing erosion from reaching the extreme levels that resulted initially from the jetties.

NPS continues to monitor overwash and the maintenance of barrier flat habitats for piping plovers, seabeach amaranth, and other organisms that rely on this rare environment. Likewise, the Maryland DNR is monitoring the salt marsh restoration projects at Isle of Wight and Ocean Pines for their effectiveness at harboring healthy ecosystems.


A Flexible Plan

A flexible plan with numerous sand sources will help ensure that the beach will be maintained throughout the current economic life of the project.

Sediment Budgets

It is possible that in the future offshore shoals, such as the ebb-tidal shoal, could be used as sites for wind turbines or wave-generated sources of alternative energy. In that situation, it will be necessary to recalculate the sediment budget for Assateague Island and designate new sand sources. Due to the thorough information compiled about this inlet system, scientists are confident that multiple management objectives can be accommodated.


As data is continually evaluated, specific dredging amounts and sources will be recalibrated by the Corps and NPS. The LTSM project is scheduled to last through 2029, and stakeholders intend to remain flexible and responsive to achieve the management objectives.