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State Facts

Miles of coast: 381

Coastal Population: 897,934

Lead Agency: Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC)

Approval Date: 1979

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Ocean and Coastal Management in Delaware

Delaware's Coastal Program

Delaware’s Coastal Management Program was approved by NOAA in 1979. The Coastal Program’s lead agency is the the Division of Soil and Water Conservation, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC). As a networked program it is administered through a number of agencies, including Divisions of Water Resources, Fish and Wildlife, Parks and Recreation, Air and Waste Management, and DNREC’s Office of the Secretary.

North Coastline

Delaware Seashore State Park draws millions of visitors per year who come to enjoy water-related activities, including boating, swimming, fishing and surfing.

Due to its small size, the whole state of Delaware is considered coastal, however the coastal zone is divided into two tiers, the “coastal strip” and the rest of the state.   The coastal strip, averaging four miles in width, receives special zoning protection from industrial development, while the second tier only falls under general program provisions. The Coastal Program manages the coastal zone and resolves conflicts related to coastal zone issues. The program's mission is to "Preserve, protect, develop and where possible restore and enhance the resources of Delaware's coastal zone."

Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve

The Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve encompasses 4,930 acres. The Reserve, approved in 1993 and administered by DNREC as part of the state coastal management program, is divided into Blackbird Creek and the Saint Jones Reserve. Salt marsh and open water habitats dominate the area of Saint Jones, while Freshwater wetlands, ponds and forest lands dominate the Blackbird Creek area. The Reserve’s staff organizes an array of education and outreach projects for the general public, school groups, private and nonprofit organizations, educators, and coastal decision makers.

Program Achievements

Delaware Launches Clean Marina Program


Delaware Coastal Program — The website provides information on activities, including development regulations and permitting, nonpoint source pollution, and green initiatives in the state.

Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve— The website provides an overview of the Reserve's many research, education and stewardship activities.

Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology — This program brief describes investments in technology development and research projects for the state of Delaware.

Marine Protected Areas — Search for marine protected areas in Delaware.

Delaware Nonpoint Program, Conditional and Final Approval Documents — The Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program encourages better coordination between state coastal zone managers and water quality experts to reduce polluted runoff in the coastal zone. The state received full approval in 2002.

Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve Final Evaluation (2011) — The Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management conducts periodic performance reviews of federally approved state coastal management programs and national estuarine research reserves.

Delaware Coastal Zone Enhancement Program Assessment and Strategy (2011-2016) — Every five years, the Coastal Zone Management Act encourages states and territories to conduct self-evaluations of their coastal management programs to assess significant changes in the state’s coastal resources and management practices, identify critical needs, and prioritize areas for enhancement under the Coastal Zone Enhancement Program.

Contact Information for Delaware’s Programs

Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control
89 Kings Highway
Dover, DE 19903
(302) 739-9283

Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve
818 Kitts Hummock Road
Dover, DE 19901
(302) 739-3436