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. A more up-to-date inventory of barrier beaches identified through remote sensing is available on the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) detailed wetlands GIS layer (1:12,000), also available on MORIS.
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.