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Sand Dunes

The Coastal Primary Sand Dune Protection Act defines a dune as a mound of unconsolidated sandy soil which is contiguous to mean high water, 
whose land­ward and lateral limits are marked by a change in grade from ten percent or greater to less than ten percent and upon any part of which 
is growing as of July one, nineteen hundred eighty, or grows thereon subsequent thereto, any one or more of ten plant species associated with dunes. 

Under this definition, chosen to recognize the dynamic nature of the system, coastal primary sand dunes include both the mound of sand comprising 
the dune zone as well as the foreshore comprising the beach zone. Together, these two zones form the coastal primary sand dune system which commences 
at mean high water and proceeds landward to the backside of the dunes where the slope drops below ten percent. 

Dune figure.JPG                                               Dune figure 2.jpg

Values of Sand Dunes

The primary physical factors that influence the shape and composition of beach and dune shorelines are waves and wind action.  The waves bring sand onto the beach 
and onshore winds push the sand inland. The dunes, the beach, and near-shore sandbars act as a dynamic, integrated system. Also, sand dunes and the vegetation that 
helps hold a dune together can provide substantial protection from storm erosion. Sandy beaches and dunes provide a natural buffer to coastal hazards, habitat for many 
estuarine species, as well as water quality services​ through water filtration, nutrient cycling, nutrient uptake, and water storage.  The four main values of sand dunes are: 
1) Flood & Erosion Protection 2) Sand Replenishment 3) Habitat and 4) Aesthetics.

Sand dune systems can support an extremely diverse sand of plants and animals and provide a habitat for a variety of specially adapted species.

Development Impacting Sand Dunes

Although dune plants tolerate harsh beach conditions, they cannot withstand traffic (pedestrian or vehicular) or development activities.
Planting dune vegetation does not require a permit; however, a permit may be required for other dune construction projects, such as dune walkways, vehicular ramps, removing vegetation, or moving sand.
Please contact the Planning Department if you are wishing to do any of these projects impacting dunes in Virginia Beach.