Erosion and Coastal Erosion

Erosion is defined as the wearing away and removal of soil particles by running water, waves, and currents, moving ice or wind, resulting in severe land destruction and property damage. There are two different types of erosion that can occur in Maine:

  • Coastal Beach Erosion: Occurs widely in scattered locations throughout the state, primarily along larger beaches and sand dune systems in York, Cumberland and Sagadahoc Counties.

  • Bluff Erosion: Occurs throughout the coast on highly unstable bluffs less than 20 feet in height.

Erosion of coastal beaches and bluffs occurs on a continuous basis along many parts of the Maine coast, resulting in an average annual loss of a foot or more on some beaches and about a foot of highly unstable bluffs. According to the Maine Geological Survey, during the past century, 30-40 buildings have been destroyed by beach erosion in Maine.

Maine has various challenges to overcome in order to better prepare for the losses due to erosion:

  1. Discontinuation of the beach profiling program.

  2. Maine’s commitment to coastal geology is small.

  3. No user-friendly program for mitigating erosion.

  4. Limited insurance for geological risks.

  5. Increasing mitigation needed.


Public education in the areas most affected is vitally important. Federal and State programs administered through their respective Agricultural Departments provide training, education and assistance to farmers who may be affected. The lack of uniform building codes in some of the communities has caused people to build in flood hazard zones. Only about 14% of the cities and towns in Maine have adopted a building code ordinance.

The most common form of mitigation used in the past was to place seawalls along the coastlines of low lying areas to stop the erosion to streets and to break the surge that is most damaging to homes and business. It is now understood that seawalls do not solve the problem and that eventually the undermining affects caused by the tide’s ripping at the seawalls will cause them to slump or collapse and leave the areas inside the walls to the wrath of tidal surges and coastal flooding.