Superstorm Sandy has turned a spotlight on the long simmering debate over the artificial maintenance of beaches along New Jersey's coast with sand pumped from offshore. After Sandy swept away "enormous quantities of sand," both proponents and opponents of "artificial beach nourishment" are reconsidering the practice, reports Cornelia Dean.
"Opponents of beach nourishment argue that undeveloped beaches deal well with storms. Their sands shift; barrier islands may even migrate toward the mainland. But the beach itself survives, because buildings and roads do not pin it down," says Dean. "By contrast, replenishment projects often wash away far sooner than expected. The critics say the best answer to coastal storms is to move people and buildings away from the water, a tactic some call strategic retreat."
"Supporters of these projects counter that beaches are infrastructure - just like roads, bridges and sewer systems - that must be maintained. They say beaches attract tourists and summer residents, conferring immense economic benefits that more than outweigh the costs of the projects. Also, they argue, these beaches absorb storm energy, sparing buildings inland."