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Replenishing Storm-Battered Beaches: Wise or a Waste?

Heavy equipment moves rocks from an eroded pit on the beach in Deal, New Jersey, where an ongoing beach replenishment project suffered erosion from a storm.

Posted on July 1, 2024

Erosion and severe storms can cause beaches to lose their sand, which leads to a whole host of problems in surrounding communities, including flooding and further erosion. The practice of replenishing that sand is a costly investment, one that is typically borne by taxpayers. “When a storm hits, a hurricane hits, the federal government pays a lot of money to come in and fix things,” Bob Keistler, a civil works project manager with the US Army Corps of Engineers, tells CBS News. The outlet takes a deep dive into what is known as beach nourishment—and whether climate change and rising costs make it feasible to continue in areas that get hit the hardest.

  • The pros: Some see beach nourishment as a proactive measure against severe storms, a tactic that saves money in the long run. US Army Corps of Engineers’ Joe Vietri says they act as a buffer between the ocean and communities. “Where you had a stable, well-maintained beach, berm, and dune system, the damages were extremely less than where you did not. And I mean dramatically so.” The corps is the branch of the government tasked with managing the projects, and it explains the process here.
  • Counterpoints: Skeptics cite the overwhelming number of repeat projects (three-quarters of those recorded), a reason to start looking for new solutions. Rising sea levels due to climate change will also eventually negate efforts to restore beaches in areas that need constant replenishment. The story cites data showing more than 2,500 such projects over the last century, at a cost of about $16 billion in today’s dollars. Why, critics wonder, should ordinary taxpayers be asked to protect other people’s risky investments?
  • Rising costs: In the 2010s, the cost of beach nourishment projects was 20 times above spending in the 1950s, averaging about $616 million per year. The federal government foots the lion’s share of that spending, which Andy Coburn of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University says could double between 2024 and 2050.


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