Executive Order

Executive Order  No. 181: Barrier beaches

Date: 08/08/1980
Issuer: Edward J. King
Mass Register: No. 224

Table of Contents


A barrier beach is a narrow low-lying strip of land generally consisting of coastal beaches and coastal dunes extending roughly parallel to the trend of the coast. It is separated from the mainland by a narrow body of fresh brackish or saline water or marsh system. It is a fragile buffer that protects landward areas from coastal storm damage and flooding.

The strength of the barrier beach system lies in its dynamic character; its ability to respond to storms by changing to a more stable form. Frequently man induced changes to barrier beaches have decreased the ability of landform to provide storm damage prevention and flood control. Inappropriate development on barrier beaches has resulted in the loss of lives and great economic losses to residents and to local, state and federal governments. The taxpayer, who often cannot gain access to barrier beach areas, must subsidize disaster relief and flood insurance for these high hazard areas.

Since barrier beaches are presently migrating landward in response to rising sea level, future storm damage to development located on the barriers is inevitable.

WHEREAS, the Commonwealth seeks to mitigate future storm damage to its barrier beach areas;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Edward J. King, Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the Commonwealth, do hereby order and direct all relevant state agencies to adopt the following policies:

  1. Barrier beaches shall be given priority status for self-help and other state and federal acquisition programs and this priority status shall be incorporated into the Statewide Outdoor Comprehensive Recreation Plan. The highest priority for disaster assistance funds shall go towards relocating willing sellers from storm damaged barrier beach areas.
  2. State funds and federal grants for construction projects shall not be used to encourage growth and development in hazard prone barrier beach areas.
  3. For state-owned barrier beach property, management plans shall be prepared which are consistent with state wetland policy and shall be submitted to the Secretary of Environmental Affairs for public review under the provisions of the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act.
  4. At a minimum, no development shall be permitted in the velocity zones or primary dune areas of barrier beaches identified by the Department of Environmental Quality Engineering.
  5. Coastal engineering structures shall only be used on barrier beaches to maintain navigation channels at inlets and then only if mechanisms are employed to ensure that downdrift beaches are adequately supplied with sediment.
  6. Dredge material of a compatible grain size shall be used for barrier beach nourishment, if economically feasible.
  7. The Coastal Zone Management Office shall coordinate state agency management policy for barrier beach areas.

Given at the Executive Chamber in Boston  this 8th day of August, in the year of Our Lord one thousand nine hundred and eighty and of the independence of America, two-hundred and five.

Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Secretary of the Commonwealth

Contact   for No. 181: Barrier beaches

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