"Beach Nourishment": The $285 Million Answer to Vanishing Shorelines?


Photo via Rutgers

Beaches are America's number one tourist attraction—they pump $320 billion dollars into the economy every year. With sea levels rising twice as fast as 100 years ago and beach erosion rates accelerating, concern is mounting that both revenues and the beauty of the natural shoreline stand to suffer from global warming. So the American Shore and Beach Association is setting out to lobby the federal government for $285 million for "beach nourishment" to haul massive loads of sand to beaches across the country's coasts to increase their size and flag erosion rates.Unfortunately, this a horrendous idea. Bringing in sand from other coastal areas to threatened beaches is a wasteful temporary alternative at best—and a dangerous move that could cause even more erosion and disrupt beach ecosystems at worst. And storms easily blow away the extra sand, making much of the effort in vain.

The only real solutions are to fight climate change at the root—and that means a solid carbon reduction program—and to slowly move communities and buildings further away from the shoreline to free up room for more beaches.

So, to combat the so-called beach nourishment measures, a bizarre alliance of sorts has sprung up—it includes a group of surfers who argue that sand moving damages the natural surf, environmental groups like the Earth Defense Fund, and Republican Senator Tom Coburn, from beach-less Oklahoma.

Yes, that's the same Senator Coburn who fought to keep public pool and park funding out of the stimulus and who vowed never to honor Rachel Carson. And now he could be an extremely important ally to environmentalists—strongly anti-tax, he dislikes the idea of spending taxpayer money to dump sand on beaches.

Beach nourishment is already federally funded, and has been for decades—to the tune of $50-100 million a year. The sooner the destructive process is stopped, the better. We'll have to keep an eye on this strange saga—this one could get interesting.

More on Beach Nourishment:
Shifting Shorelines: Coping with Global Warming in the UK
No More Naked Butts on the Beach

Tags: Beaches | Congress | Conservation