Building a National Offshore Sand Inventory

 NJ Sand Resource Areas Map
Offshore New Jersey

BOEM’s Marine Minerals Program (MMP) is multi-faceted, focusing on coordinated leasing of sediment for extraction, inventorying sediment resources through geological and geophysical surveys of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), and environmental studies and reviews to inform decisions. Sediment resources on the OCS are leased to local communities or federal agencies to help them restore shorelines or wetlands in an effort to address chronic erosion, sea level rise, impacts from major storms, or to protect valuable infrastructure and habitat.

However, on a national scale, little is known about the character, quantity, and location of sand resources on the OCS and the habitat it provides for biological communities. These sand resources are most critical along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, with an evolving interest in the Pacific.

BOEM places a high priority on creating a comprehensive national sand resource inventory to meet BOEM’s mandate as stewards of all federal mineral resources on the OCS. This stewardship responsibility will be realized by proactively planning for the increasing demands for OCS resources and emergency needs as they arise.

Sediment resource inventory efforts are undertaken through funding of research to identify and characterize offshore sand resources. The cooperative agreements with 13 Atlantic states following Hurricane Sandy and subsequent offshore surveys though the Atlantic Sand Assessment Project kick-started new research. BOEM is undertaking a similar initiative in the Gulf of Mexico.

These endeavors encourage states to work together, in conjunction with BOEM and other partners, to find cost-effective methods and solutions to manage these finite resources. The goal is to help communities meet longer-term needs, become more resilient, and be better prepared to withstand future storms, while maximizing the lifecycle of these resources.

Preparedness requires being proactive to quantify and characterize these sediment resources. This includes estimating the volume of sand resources in federal waters, their location, accessibility, and character (i.e., matching the grain size, color, and composition). BOEM’s investment in research, in collaboration with its partners, to identify those resources and convert the data into usable formats (such as databases or digital maps), helps coastal managers assess the resource’s suitability to the ecosystem and wave climate where they will be placed. With the size and frequency of coastal restoration projects increasing dramatically in recent years, having this information at the fingertips of decision-makers is imperative to improve response time in emergencies and facilitate long-term planning.

In the end, BOEM is helping states and local communities be better prepared to protect lives, property, habitat, and the built infrastructure from future storms. Restored beaches, dunes, and wetlands serve as nature-based infrastructure that protects coastlines, homes, businesses, and other infrastructure that we value and enjoy.

ScienceHighlightsExpandButton What will the national offshore sand inventory look like?

ScienceHighlightsExpandButton Where can I find information on offshore sand resources?

ScienceHighlightsExpandButton What are we learning from the past?

ScienceHighlightsExpandButton What is BOEM doing now to address the need for data?

ScienceHighlightsExpandButton Geophysical and Geotechnical Maps from Cooperative Agreement Reports

ScienceHighlightsExpandButton Equipment Used in Conducting Offshore Sand Surveys