The Environmental Tragedy of Coastal Erosion
A very high percentage of the American population resides at or near one of the coasts. Preserving beaches is a very costly endeavor and there have been many debates over which way this country should go about doing so. On the east coast the current strategy is, “beach nourishment programs”, whereby sand is taken from available sources and put back onto the eroded beach (Michaels, 01). In 1999 the United States government spent about $150 million on beach nourishment programs, state and local governments along with those who own their own beach property spend even more on such projects (Michaels, 01). Recently, however, the amount reserved for these projects in the national budget has been decreasing. The problem with the beach nourishment programs is that they are very short term and too costly, resulting in beaches which are still being eroded and a what seems to many, as a waste of taxpayer dollars. So we have a high demand for beach use and a low willing- ness to supply funds to preserve the same beach. The forces of man and nature have created a coastal erosion headache for millions of residents in the U.S.
As is the case with many environmental problems, nature and man have combined forces to create a coastal erosion problem (Michaels, 01). Development along the coast line has contributed greatly to erosion and has done so in several different ways. Some property owners have totally demolished coastal dunes in an attempt to provide better views of the ocean for the properties they build, and along with that have also completely destroyed natural vegetation in order to construct jetties or other manmade devices to improve ocean access for their property (Michaels, 01). Man, however, is not the only cause of erosion and in fact over the long term it is nature which is mostly responsible for beach erosion. There are several factors of nature that affect erosion such as: 1. sea level 2. sediment availability 3. ocean currents 4. weather. Nature is the final deciding factor of which ocean property will survive and which will be wiped away. “The ocean differentiates little between its treatment of sand castles built on the beach by children, and the bigger vacation castles built by their parents on or behind the sand dunes.”(Michaels, 01) So the question is what can be done in order to save the billions of dollars invested in American beaches or should we just cut our losses and stop attempting to develop on these lands, concentrating on only recreational beach use as opposed to developmental use.
Lets first look at the dangers of building on the beachfront. A new report released by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency 2000) states that in the next 60 years, nearly 87,000 houses and other buildings will be destroyed by erosion on the U.S. coast (Ward 2001). Nearly a quarter of the buildings built within 500 feet of the coast are in...