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Barrier Beach Management in Massachusetts

Find information on the Massachusetts Barrier Beach Inventory Project and guidelines for beach managers from the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM).

Barrier beaches are narrow, low-lying strips of beach and dunes that are roughly parallel to the coastline and are separated from the mainland by a body of water or wetland. Hundreds of barrier beaches line the Massachusetts coastline. These landforms were created and are constantly changed by coastal processes, such as erosion, overwash during storms, dune movement, and inlet formation and migration. These dynamic systems are a tremendous resource providing recreation opportunities for beachgoers, fishermen, and off-road vehicle users; storm and flood protection for mainland areas; and habitat for plants and wildlife, including numerous rare and endangered species. In addition, many of these barrier beaches have been developed for recreational, residential, and commercial purposes. Managing barrier beaches to meet these competing uses is a complex task facing many local communities, organizations, and homeowners.

Along with providing direct technical assistance to those who are responsible for managing barrier beaches, the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) has two primary tools available to assist with barrier beach management:

  • Massachusetts Barrier Beach Inventory - CZM completed a comprehensive effort to identify and delineate the 681 barrier beaches in Massachusetts and to place them on topographic maps. Completed in 1982 and updated in 2007, the information is available in hard copy maps and through the Massachusetts Ocean Resource Information System (MORIS), a web-based coastal mapping tool.
  • Guidelines for Barrier Beach Management in Massachusetts (PDF, 12 MB) - Published by CZM in 1994, this report of the Massachusetts Barrier Beach Task Force was designed as a reference tool for those charged with the responsibility of preparing, reviewing, and implementing barrier beach management plans.

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