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Virginia CZM Program: 2010 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:



Virginia Institute of Marine Science 

Project Title:

Shore Change Website and Dune Monitoring 

Project Description as Proposed:

The VIMS Shoreline Studies Program has developed a shoreline change database, through funding by DEQ’s Coastal Program over many years, that contains the rates and patterns of shoreline change in the Virginia portion of Chesapeake Bay since 1937.  Presently the data is available in locality-based reports in Adobe Acrobat format on the VIMS web site.  While available, it can be difficult to find site-specific information.  This data is very valuable in the context of shoreline management and planning for many different entities including state and local management commissions and boards, marine consultant professionals, students, and private homeowners, and regular requests are made for site-specific data.   The goal of this proposal would be to develop a more user-friendly web site that provides the 1937/38 and 2009 photos, digitized shorelines, and rates of change in an interactive format. The attached map shows the extent of shoreline rate of change available for the Virginia portion of Chesapeake Bay.  This data was an integral part of the Contractor’s Living Shoreline Design Guidance Class, and, as part of this proposal, the webpage containing the contractor information also will be reformatted to increase accessibility.                      

The Shoreline Studies Program has monitored beaches and dunes at 9 sites around the Virginia portion of Chesapeake Bay (Milligan et al., 2005).  These sites were monitored twice yearly for four years (2001-2004).  In addition to three years of relatively calm conditions, these data included the impact of Hurricane Isabel, a nearly 100-yr event, on the Bay’s shorelines.  The shoreline’s change due to the storm and their subsequent short-term recovery was documented by this data.  Several of these sites were again monitored in 2009 (O’Brien et al, 2009).   

These sites still are undergoing changes and returning to survey these sites provides a unique opportunity to understanding long-term dune changes.   The dune at First Landing State Park may have eroded during Hurricane Sandy.  The monitoring site in Mathews has undergone changes due to erosion and the construction of shore structures.  It also may be site of a breakwater system in the future.  Understanding storm impacts and shoreline recovery as well as documenting response to structures is critical knowledge when determining the suitability of living shoreline options (i.e. beach/dune) in higher energy environments.  In addition, the overall stability of these sites and their response to physical forcing can provide important information when developing guidelines for beach and dune encroachment.  Two sites, First Landing State Park and Mathews, would be surveyed and photographed.  A summary state of the beach and dune report would be created. 

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Donna Milligan; 804.684.7596; 

Project Status:

5/1/2013 - 9/30/2013; Project Completed

Final Product Received:

Dune Monitoring Data Update Summary: 2013 Final Report (pdf) 

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

This goal of this project was twofold.  The first goal included updating the Shoreline Studies Website to include provide easier access to the Virginia Shoreline Change Database.  A web viewer creates an interactive portal for state and local management commissions and boards, marine consultant professionals, students, and private homeowners.  Included on the interactive webpage, where available, is the 1937 photo mosaic database, 1937 digitized shoreline, 2009 VGIN photos, 2009 digitized shoreline and calculated End Point Rate of Change. 

The second goal was to monitor two dune sites that have been part of our ongoing dune research.  Both Mathews dune site 3 and Virginia Beach dune site 4 have been impacted by storms over the last few years.  This project provided the opportunity to determine what those impacts were and how the dune has changed over the last 13 years since the site was first visited.  Three large storms have occurred during this time period:  Hurricane Isabel (Oct 2003), Veteran’s Day Northeaster (Nov 2009), and Hurricane Sandy (Oct 2012).  Sections of Site MA3 have been severely impacted by these storms.  The southern reach of the site is erosional, and the beach and dunes were eroded during storms.  The northern half was only minimally affected by the storms.  The section of beach on the north end nearest the breakwater system has been accretionary throughout the monitoring program.   The rest of the northern reach has generally been accretionary in that the dunes are higher now than they were at the start of the monitoring program, but there have been changes in response to storm events.  This site underscores the impact that development and the underlying geology play in erosional patterns through time.  Site VB4 shows the resilience of dune systems when sand is plentiful and encroachment by structures is minimal.  The net long-term change has been overwhelmingly positive.  Even in the face of these significant storm events, the beach and dune is higher and wider in 2013 than it was in 2001.   

The third part of the project was to reformat the Living Shoreline Design Guidance webpage and link the GIS database to it.  Additional information and more clarity was created in the links. 

Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or email:

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy to

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

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