Coasting Away

Shorelines That Are Losing Ground



Coastal erosion is a threat to Coastal Virginia

The shorelines of Hampton Roads are constantly in flux. Waves pummel exposed stretches of beach, carting off a little sand or mud each time. That earth has to go somewhere, and it often doesn’t travel very far. The sediment is carried along with the sea, plunked down where the wave meets an obstruction or the energy peters out. That happens a lot in Coastal Virginia, and below are the communities that have gained and lost the most ground thanks to our fluid coasts.

Northampton County: In Hampton Roads, Fisherman Island has grown the most—nearly 2,000 acres in two centuries. Kiptopeke’s old ferry pier has trapped acreage in the past several decades, too.

Hampton: Buckroe Beach and, especially, Factory Point prove themselves especially vulnerable to sand loss at the whim of nasty storms, but city and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers replenishment efforts have replaced what nature has eroded.


Virginia Beach: The concentrated energy of the Atlantic’s waves would normally take several feet of ground a year were it not for regular beach replenishment. Eroded Oceanfront sand migrates north; Fort Story and Cape Henry are among the region’s biggest gainers of new ground.

Jamestown Island: The cradle of modern American culture has been losing acreage steadily since Englishmen landed there and, thanks to sea level rise, will be completely underwater in a century or so. 


Plum Tree Island National Wildlife Refuge: Poquoson’s northeastern shore, directly exposed to the Chesapeake Bay, has been losing ground at an alarming rate, greater than 10 feet per year.