Installing Sand Fences

Permit guidelines and exemption criteria for the installation of sand fences along the oceanfront took effect August 1, 2002.

When properly installed, sand fences help build dunes by trapping wind-blown sand. But if installed improperly, they can impede public access to the beach, and can trap or endanger sea turtles, their nests or hatchlings.

The Guidelines

The guidelines create a CAMA minor permit and an exemption for sand fencing. To qualify for the exemption, installation of new sand fencing has to meet the following criteria:

  • The fencing must be no taller than five feet and built from evenly spaced thin wooden vertical slats connected with twisted wire.
  • The fencing must be placed as far landward as possible to avoid interference with sea turtle nesting, public access and use of the beach. It must not be placed on the wet-sand beach.
  • If fencing is to be placed parallel to the shoreline, it must not be located waterward of the crest of the frontal or primary dune.
  • If fencing is to be placed waterward of the crest of the dune, it must be installed at a 45 degree or greater angle to the shoreline. Each section of fence must not be longer than 10 feet, and sections must be spaced at least seven feet apart.
  • Fencing must not extend more than 10 feet beyond either the first line of stable natural vegetation, the toe of the frontal or primary dune, or the erosion escarpment of the dune, whichever is closest to the water.
  • Sand fencing to be placed along public accesses may be as long as the access, and may include a 45 degree funnel on the waterward end. The funnel may extend up to 10 feet beyond the end of the access.

Why the Guidelines Are Needed

In recent years, the amount of sand fencing along the coast has grown significantly as property owners sought to protect their homes from storms and long-term beach erosion. As such, miles of sand fencing - some of which is improperly installed or neglected - now line the state’s beaches.

Because improper sand fencing can pose a threat to sea turtles, the state Wildlife Resources Commission has developed voluntary sand fencing guidelines.

Several beach communities had attempted to address the issue through sand fencing ordinances, but the scope of the problem required state attention. The CRC’s new regulatory guidelines were developed in cooperation with the WRC and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service.