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

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