Massachusetts Coastal Erosion Commission: Volume 1 - Report and Recommendations (Draft)

This draft report issued in January 2015 presents the work, findings, and recommendations of the Massachusetts Coastal Erosion Commission. Organized into two volumes, Volume 1 contains the body of the report with seven chapters and appendices and Volume 2 contains the technical reports of the Commission’s three Working Groups of Science and Technology, Legal and Regulatory, and Erosion Impacts.

In 2014, Massachusetts established the Coastal Erosion Commission to investigate and document the levels and impacts of coastal erosion in the Commonwealth, and to develop strategies and recommendations to reduce, minimize, or eliminate the magnitude and frequency of coastal erosion and its adverse impacts on property, infrastructure, public safety, and beaches and dunes.

Specifically, the Commission was asked to evaluate erosion levels since 1978 and assess the resulting financial damage to property, infrastructure, and beach and dune resources - and to also estimate the likely cost of damages over the next 10 years under current conditions, regulations, and laws.

The Commission’s report includes the results of this assessment with an overview of coastal processes and human alterations on coastal shorelines in Massachusetts, and current inventories and assessments of coastal shoreline engineered structures.

As part of the Commission process, a shoreline characterization project was implemented to describe and categorize the land uses and natural resources potentially at risk from coastal erosion. The approach identified the occurrence and distribution of coastal landforms (e.g., dune, beach, and bank), habitats (e.g., forest, salt marsh, and rocky intertidal shore), developed lands (e.g., residential, commercial, and industrial), and shore parallel coastal engineered structures (e.g., bulkheads/seawalls and revetments) at the immediate, exposed shoreline that encompasses 57 Massachusetts communities.

In this report, the Commission assesses the status and trends of coastal erosion by examining the information and results of the Massachusetts Shoreline Change Project and then providing a summary assessment of past shoreline change and rates for each community covered by the project. The report provides both the long- and short-term average change rates for each community, with the highest twenty erosion rates identified.

Developed with input from the three working groups and local officials, residents, owners, and other stakeholders at the public workshops, the report contains a set of recommendations in the form of seven overarching strategies along with specific actions to advance them. The seven strategies identified are in three general categories:

Science, Data, and Information:

1. Increase understanding of coastal and near-shore sediment dynamics, including the effects of man-made, engineered structures, to inform potential management actions and other responses to coastal erosion.

2. Enhance available information base on type, extent, impacts and costs of coastal erosion on public infrastructure, private property, and natural resources to improve the basis for decision making.

3. Improve mapping and identification of coastal high hazard areas to inform managers, property-owners, local officials and the public.

Legal and Policy:

4. Reduce and minimize the impacts of erosion (and flooding) on property, infrastructure, and natural resources by siting new development and substantial re- development away from high hazard areas and incorporating best practices in projects.

5. Improve the use of sediment resources for beach and dune nourishment and restoration.

Shoreline Management, Assistance, and Outreach:

6. Support the implementation and study of pilot projects for innovative solutions and the encouragement of learning-by-doing and experimentation in shoreline management approaches.

7. Maintain and expand technical and financial assistance and communication and outreach to communities to support local efforts to address the challenges of erosion, flooding, storms, sea level rise, and other climate change impacts.


Publication Date: January 7, 2015

Related Organizations:

  • Massachusetts Coastal Erosion Commission


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment

States Affected:


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