Calling for an End to Federal Support for Beach Nourishment

In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, a researcher calls attention to the method behind the federal spending on billions of dollars of investment in unsustainable beaches.

2 minute read

October 15, 2016, 7:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

An image of a path through sand dunes to ocean in New Jersey

Fishhawk / Flickr

Robert S. Young, a professor of coastal geology and director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University, takes to the opinion pages of the New York Times to explain the ongoing "beach boondoggle" taking place on the East Coast.

The recent landfall of Hurricane Matthew provides a teachable moment for Young, who notes that the country is responding to the ongoing process of coastal erosion by "trying to hold every shoreline in place forever by pumping sand onto them, largely at federal expense." In fact, a named storm like Hurricane Matthew "can even turn locally funded beach 'nourishment' projects into federally funded ones."

Western Carolina has even created a beach nourishment viewer to illustrate the scale of beach nourishment projects since the early 1990s.

Young argues, however, that the federal funding of beach nourishment is folly.  "As sea-level rise continues, and if storms intensify as predicted, the projects will require more sand, and more dollars," he writes. "We are going to run out of both."

While Young acknowledges the arguments in favor of beach nourishment (i.e., "It is true that beach and dune engineering projects benefit local communities. They can protect oceanfront homes and roads while providing a recreational beach for tourists to play on."), he also points out that those benefits are temporary and localized. Moreover, "numerous studies report that the primary beneficiaries of beach stabilization projects are oceanfront property owners."

Wednesday, October 12, 2016 in The New York Times

Aerial view of Oceanwide Plaza skyscrapers covered with graffiti tags.

LA’s Abandoned Towers Loom as a “$1.2 Billion Ruin of Global Capital”

Oceanwide Plaza, shuttered mid-construction after its developer filed for bankruptcy, has stood vacant on prime Los Angeles real estate since 2019.

May 21, 2024 - The Architect's Newspaper

Entrance to a drive-through car wash at night with green 'Enter' sign.

Ohio Towns Move to Ban New Car Washes

City officials in northeast Ohio are putting limits on how many car wash facilities can open in their towns.

May 16, 2024 - News 5 Cleveland

Ornate, tan stone capitol building with a gold dome roof and low-rise city buildings in the background.

States Are Banning Guaranteed Income Programs

Four states now have laws in place that prevent cities and counties from creating or continuing guaranteed income programs, and several more have tried or are trying.

May 23, 2024 - Bloomberg CityLab

California Governor Gavin Newsom announcing funding for tiny home shelter project in front of quick-build tiny home shelter unit.

California’s Tiny Home Pledge Still on Paper, One Year Later

A promise to fund 1,200 tiny homes for unhoused residents in four cities as a way to rapidly and cost-effectively provide shelter has yet to yield tangible results, but projects are moving ahead in some cities.

May 24 - CALmatters

Residential neighborhood in Colorado with fall foliage and snowy mountains in background.

Colorado Ends Non-Family Occupancy Limits

Local jurisdictions will no longer be able to limit how many unrelated adults can live in a household, a move that supporters say will help lower housing costs and help older adults supplement their incomes and stay in their homes.

May 24 - Strong Towns

A white crosswalk painted by Crosswalk Collective LA in Los Angeles, California.

Guerilla Urbanism Spurs Action From Cities

Rather than take a hostile approach to DIY urbanism, some cities are using guerilla efforts as an opportunity to understand critical infrastructure gaps.

May 24 - Smart Cities Dive

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.