ISSUE: Why Does the City Replenish the Sand on the Beaches?

​​FACT: The City replenishes the resort area sand every 5-7 years to​ protect the infrastructure behind it, such as pump stations, the seawall (which is also our Boardwalk), and property that would otherwise be prone to flooding along the shoreline.​
​​​​​The current replenishment project will cost $22.6 million, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) contributing more than half of the total cost, about $14.7 million. When complete, the USACE will have deposited 1.4 million cubic yards of sand between 15th and 70th Street, widening the shoreline to 300 feet and raising it to nine feet above sea level. That’s enough sand to fill two billion large cups of coffee!

Crews have been working in 1,000-foot sections, moving south to north, to place the dredged sand along the beaches since mid-June. Each section takes about two to three days to complete, and work takes place 24/7. The work is temporary, and will ensure that our beach and its surrounding infrastructure are around for years to come.

The sand is sometimes referred to as “sacrificial sand.” When a hurricane or nor’easter batters our shores, the ocean erodes the sand, picking away at it until the ocean overwhelms the sea wall, which is why we replenish the sand. During the Ash Wednesday storm of 1962, we didn’t have a wide beach to protect our oceanfront infrastructure. Back then, the shoreline was 80-100 feet at its widest points. For 36 hours, this storm battered our shores and eventually breached the sea wall, destroying it in some areas, and damaging or destroying properties behind it. 

Since 2003, it’s estimated that replenishment efforts along the resort area have averted $430 million in storm-related damage, compared to the $20.2 million the City has invested in the projects. Simply put, inaction is more costly than taking action after the fact.

In fact, the City will be taking action along all of our sandy shores, not just the resort area. From Sandbridge to Chesapeake Beach, all beaches will have been replenished over a two-year period by the Spring of 2020. This has never been done in the history of our City.

The timing of this year’s project has also been a point of concern for many of our residents and visitors. It’s fair to say that peak tourist season is hardly an ideal time to begin such a project. Unfortunately, the City had very little input on the start time of the project. Since most of the funds were provided by the federal government, we had to wait for the money to be made available. Additionally, the contractor doing the work, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company, has more customers than Virginia Beach, so it was necessary to work around their availability. To get the work done before the peak of hurricane season, it had to be now.

Fortifying our beach just as we head into hurricane season is important to our city and the businesses that are dependent upon this resource. For more information about beach replenishment operations, please visit the Public Works Coastal website. To check on the progress of the resort area beach replenishment project, please visit the USACE website​

Contact Information

VB411 - Sand Replenishment