Sand search - Delaware Geological Survey assessing sand availability for beach restoration planning

The Delaware Geological Survey (DGS) is identifying areas where sand is available to restore the state’s dunes and beaches following coastal storms through a new agreement with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).

Housed at the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, DGS will evaluate the state’s existing geologic and geophysical data to pinpoint sand resources for future needs.

The scientific analysis will help state officials and BOEM assist coastal communities recovering from Hurricane Sandy, restore habitat, increase knowledge of sand resources offshore and contribute to long-term coastal resilience planning.

“This agreement renews BOEM’s commitment to work with Delaware to help coastal communities recover from Hurricane Sandy and enhance resilience efforts for the future,” said Walter Cruickshank, BOEM acting director. “We are committed to continuing to work in a collaborative manner to help local communities withstand damage from future storms.”

DGS and BOEM began working together on sand resource projects in 1992. Periodic sand assessments focused primarily on state waters, said David Wunsch, DGS director and state geologist, so the new analysis will include federal zones to help fill in gaps. Researchers will also clarify what kind of sand is available in different areas, ensuring that the grain size is a suitable match to erosion dynamics and beach goers’ expectations.

“The Delaware coast and beaches provide a tremendous benefit to Delaware’s economy, as well as residential and recreational opportunities for our citizens and visitors alike,” Wunsch said. “We are looking forward to working again with BOEM on this important project.”

The state’s coastal economy generates an estimated $6.9 billion annually, according to research by the Delaware Sea Grant College Program. That activity could be threatened by coastal erosion and flooding, Wunsch said, especially given that Delaware has the lowest mean elevation of any state in the country and is very susceptible to rising sea levels.

BOEM scientists will assist Delaware in identifying areas to study for future geophysical and geological surveys, with the purpose of confirming previously identified resources and locating new areas of potential sand resources. BOEM will also help Delaware develop tools, such as a database with corresponding map coordinates, to more readily share sand resource data with other agencies involved in coastal resilience planning.

Such activities are essential for reducing potential storm damage to the residents, economies and infrastructure of Delaware’s coastal areas. Research funded under this agreement will help ensure that activities, including offshore dredging and beach nourishment, are conducted in a sustainable manner that is compatible with natural sediment transport and biological processes, as well as stakeholder interests.

The agreement is part of a series of partnerships with coastal Atlantic states using part of the $13.6 million allocated to BOEM through the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013. The research will identify sand and gravel resources that are appropriate for coastal protection and restoration along the entire Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

Since Hurricane Sandy struck, BOEM has been working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, other members of the federal government’s Hurricane Sandy Task Force, state coastal planning agencies, state geological surveys and other entities to analyze the needs for coastal restoration and to develop restoration plans.

About the Delaware Geological Survey

The Delaware Geological Survey (DGS) is a science-based, public-service-driven Delaware state agency at the University of Delaware that conducts geologic and hydrologic research, service and exploration for the benefit of the citizens of the First State.

The mission of the DGS is to provide objective earth science information, advice and service to its stakeholders — the citizens, policy makers, industries and educational institutions of Delaware.

DGS became formally affiliated within the University’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment in 2008, and most DGS scientists have secondary faculty appointments in the college’s Department of Geological Sciences.

About BOEM

BOEM promotes energy independence, environmental protection and economic development through responsible, science-based management of offshore conventional and renewable energy and marine mineral resources.

Over the past 20 years, BOEM has invested more than $30 million to identify non-energy resources on the OCS, conduct world-class scientific research, and lease OCS resources to coastal communities in need.

Information from environmental research and resource identification has informed environmental assessment and leasing decisions concerning the use of OCS sand resources in beach nourishment and coastal restoration. For more information on BOEM's Marine Minerals Program, visit this website.

Image courtesy of the Environmental Public Education Office

For questions and information, contact DGS at, 302-831-2833