NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Beach Construction Booms on the Sands of Taxpayers

July 29, 2002

Instead of preventing construction on erosion-prone beaches, Florida laws and regulators have created a no-retreat strategy that promotes development and leaves it to taxpayers to rebuild beaches when they wash away. Such are the conclusions of an examination of building permits and dozens of interviews by Gannett newspapers and television stations in Florida.

  • Since 1923, Florida has spent nearly $887 million, in 2002 dollars, to replenish beaches on its 825-mile coastline.
  • Since 1978, only 52 beach building permits have been denied -- while 4,913 new homes, hotels, condominiums and other buildings have been approved on land subject to erosion.
  • More than half of the structures stand on land that qualifies for money from local, state and federal taxpayers to restore beaches.
  • The cycle of taxpayer-subsidized coastal reconstruction and washout occurs in virtually every state bordering the Atlantic, Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico.

Last year, Congress approved a record $135 million for 75 shoreline-rebuilding projects and studies in 21 states.

In the past 79 years, beach replenishment along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts has cost federal taxpayers an estimated $3.6 billion in 2002 dollars. That is about $1 million per mile of open coasts along the Atlantic and Gulf.

Source: Paige St. John and Larry Wheeler (Gannett News Service), "Development Goes On as Beaches Deteriorate," USA Today, July 29, 2002.

For USA Today text


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