NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 10, 2005

Coastal building places a burden on the federal government, which provides flood insurance that subsidizes the rebuilding of damaged structures. However, observers are questioning whether rebuilding New Orleans, or adding to the development of any coastal areas, is worth the cost, says the New York Times.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Census:

  • About 87 million people live along the Atlantic or Gulf coasts.
  • But coastal erosion threatens 70 percent of the nation's coastline, particularly the eastern and Gulf coasts.
  • Moreover, one-fourth of homes built within 500 feet of the coast will be lost by 2060.

Robert S. Young, a coastal development expert at Western Carolina University, recommends forming a non-political commission of FEMA representatives, geologists, Army Corps engineers and university researchers to determine what sections of shoreline are vulnerable and should be removed from the federal government's flood insurance program.

However, others say that too little, not too much infrastructure building is going on in flood-prone areas. The mayor of Caswell, Beach, N.C., for example, asserts that beaches are not being maintained, and there are always engineering solutions to potential problems.

Moreover, requirements governing coastal development have been successfully challenged in court as an affront on people's property rights, says the Times.

Source: Cornelia Dean, "Some Experts Say It's Time to Evacuate the Coast (for Good)," New York Times, October 4, 2005.

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