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Skip Navigation LinksDNREC : Division of Watershed Stewardship : Shoreline and Waterway Management

Construction on Delaware's Coastline


Coastal development adds stress to beach systems, especially dunes. Dunes are sand storage areas which supply the beach during storms. Ironically, it is often the developed structures which rely most on the protection of the dunes during storms that damage or destroy the protective ability of the dune. If coastal development is not managed with respect for the dynamic nature of coastal dunes, storms may cause serious property damage and threaten lives. Increased erosion and vulnerability may also cause significant economic impacts to individuals, businesses, and state and local governments.

Regulatory Authority
Recognizing the need to enhance, preserve and protect public and private beaches and to ensure their use as protective and recreational lands, the Delaware Legislature passed the Beach Preservation Act (Chapter 68, Title 7 of the Delaware Code) in 1972.

The act defines the beach as the area extending from the Mean High Water line of the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay seaward 2,500 feet, and landward 1,000 feet and from the Delaware/Maryland line at Fenwick Island to the Old Marina Canal north of Pickering Beach.

To ensure that beaches and dunes are able to perform their protective and recreational functions, construction must be kept off them. A Building Line has been established along the coast as part of the Regulations Governing Beach Protection and the Use of Beaches. The Building Line, which parallels the coastline, is designated on DNREC maps. No construction may take place seaward of the Line without a Coastal Construction Permit or Coastal Construction Letter of Approval from the Department.

Construction Seward of the Building Line
Section 6805 (d) of the Beach Preservation Act states: The Department shall grant or deny a permit or letter of approval required by subsections (a) and (c) of this section in accordance with duly promulgated regulations. If any structure proposed to be built seaward of the building line could reasonably be reduced in size or otherwise altered in order to eliminate or diminish the amount of encroachment over the building line, the Department shall require such reduction or alteration as a condition of granting the permit or letter of approval. The 4-step process was created to formulate a way in which dwellings could be designed so that encroachment over the building line is minimized.

Best Construction Practices
The Regulations Governing Beach Protection and the Use of Beaches not only protect the beach and dunes as natural resources, but the regulations also protect structures from coastal storms through siting requirements.  However, there are other construction practices that can be utilized to better protect structures from storm damage.


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