In 1980, Executive Order No. 181 was enacted to strengthen the protection of barrier beaches in Massachusetts. This order recognized that: the dynamic nature of the barrier is essential for barrier beaches to provide storm damage prevention and flood control; human-induced changes to barrier beaches can decrease these storm damage prevention and flood control capacities; inappropriate development on barrier beaches results in the loss of lives and property; and future storm damage to development on barrier beaches is inevitable due to sea level rise.

In recognition of these factors, the Executive Order discourages further development on barrier beaches by limiting state and federal funding for new support facilities, such as sewer and water lines and coastal engineering structures; clarifies state wetland policy for managing the natural characteristics of these areas; gives priority status for relocation assistance to storm damaged barrier beach areas; and encourages public acquisition of barrier beaches for recreational purposes.

To implement Executive Order No. 181, the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) undertook the Massachusetts Barrier Beach Inventory Project. In 1982, CZM completed this comprehensive effort to identify and delineate the 681 barrier beaches in Massachusetts and to place them on topographic maps.

In 2007, CZM made them available through the Massachusetts Ocean Resource Information System (MORIS), a web-based coastal mapping tool. To find the data layer, search for “Barrier Beaches” in the “Available Data Layers” search box in the upper right-hand corner of MORIS. The State Designated Barrier Beaches data layer will automatically be added to an online map. Right click the data layer name to access the metadata (the information describing the data layer and how it was developed and is maintained).

CZM also distributes copies of the maps generated through this project. The maps are numbered according to the Index Map of U.S.G.S. Topographic Quadrangles for the Barrier Beach Inventory Project.

To obtain a copy of one or more of these maps, click the small index map to the right to load the large index map pdf format of    Barrier Beach Index Map  and identify the map number(s). Then, e-mail your request to czm@state.ma.us. Please ask specifically for a Barrier Beach Inventory Map and give the map number(s), and also provide your complete name and mailing address.

Although a variety of data was collected to support the mapping of Massachusetts barrier beaches, detailed subsurface geological information was not available for each individual coastal barrier. Therefore, it is possible that some landforms, or portions thereof, that have been identified as barriers should not have been. Conversely, there may be landforms that are barriers but were not so identified.