Open fencing (posts with string) can help limit foot traffic within dunes and other sensitive areas, but does little to help trap sand within the dune. Installing open fencing usually does not require a permit. Less open fencing may be permitted if it has specified spacings to allow water and sand movement. No closed fencing is allowed in frontal dunes or erosion hazard areas.
Sand/snow fencing (wooden slats/pickets with wire) can help trap sediment adjacent to the dune system. If the opening between pickets/slats is at least 4 inches wide, or at least double the width of the picket, whichever is greater, a permit is not needed; all other fencing will require a permit from Maine DEP.
Cobble trapping fences may be installed where cobble regularly washes over a seawall and threatens private structures. These fences are permitted only in specific areas adjacent to cobble or gravel beaches, where there are developed areas between the building and the beach (such as lawn), and must be secured with permanent posts. Specific standards relating to these fences are included in Natural Resources Protection Act Chapter 305, 16C.
In some cases on beaches and dunes, actions you might take could impact threatened or endangered species such as piping plovers. If these species are present, it's likely you have been made aware of this. In these cases, consultation with state and federal wildlife agencies will be needed before action can be taken.
Follow the steps below to gain the environmental and regulatory information needed for decision making. The steps are listed in general order although some steps may be conducted concurrently.
1) Contact local, state and/or federal regulatory officials for advice on applicable regulations before proceeding with a fencing project.
2) Obtain an environmental assessment from a certified engineer or other qualified professional with expertise in coastal geology and ecology. In most cases local, state, and/or federal regulators can help direct you to the best professional discipline to assist with your specific project. Sometimes it is helpful to have the consultant completing the environmental assessment and the construction contractor present at regulatory consultation meetings.
3) Evaluate your risk. Check your insurance coverage to make sure you have adequate liability coverage related to loss due to shoreline erosion, as well as flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program.
4) If fencing is being considered within 75 feet of Highest Annual Tide (HAT) or within a mapped sand dune system, develop a site stabilization plan. The plan does not need to be prepared by a professional in all cases; however, a good, clear plan can improve the efficiency and timeliness of any permitting that may be required. Good plans also will be beneficial to the construction contractor and can help avoid costly mistakes during the construction process.
5) Be Neighborly. If the plan involves work at or near a property boundary, consider sharing the plan with the abutter(s) to make sure they fully understand the work to be performed and the potential impact to their property. This consultation is a courtesy at this stage, and not a regulatory mandate; however, obtaining “buy in” from abutter(s) can potentially avoid neighbor disputes that may lead to costly permitting and/or construction delays.
6) Need a local permit? Share plans with local code enforcement in order to determine what, if any, town ordinances may need to be followed to complete the work. Local shoreland zoning requirements may apply.
7) Need a state permit? If the plan involves alterations within 75 feet of highest annual tide (HAT), within or adjacent to another protected natural resource as defined by the Maine Natural Resources Protection Act such as a sand dune, or within a development permitted by the Site Location of Development Act, a state permit will likely be required. No closed fencing is permitted in frontal dunes or erosion hazard areas.
Fencing for trapping cobble on cobble beaches may be approved as a permit-by-rule if the fence is secured with permanent posts; otherwise an individual permit may be required. Alterations to a development or a lot within a development permitted under the Site Location of Development Act may require the revision or amendment of the development’s permit.
8) Need a federal permit? If the plan involves work below the highest annual tide (HAT) and/or in a freshwater wetland or habitat for endangered or threatened species, a federal permit(s) under the Federal Clean Water Act and Rivers and Harbors Act may be required. Share the plan with all applicable federal authorities in order to determine what permits may be necessary.
9) Hire qualified contractors who are experienced with the best practices associated with construction in or adjacent to natural resources.