NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Beach Restoration: Building Sand Castles With Taxpayers' Money

April 9, 2001

Beach restoration projects might be justifiable if the sand would only stay in place once millions of taxpayer dollars were spent to put it there. But year after year it washes away, and year after year the government engages in the farce of dredging it up again, critics complain.

The Bush administration's budget -- to be released today -- is expected to propose rolling back beach restoration projects. But politicians with beachfront community constituents, local leaders and coastal businesspeople are sure to oppose such efforts.

  • Over a half-century, the Army Corps of Engineers has spent nearly $2 billion for shore-protection projects -- including breakwaters and jetties that sometimes actually worsen erosion.
  • Since 1996, Congress has authorized 41 additional local beach projects -- at a cost of $3.38 billion, and growing.
  • A Duke University study estimated these expenditures amount to a $10,000-a-year subsidy for the owners of each condo or vacation home in the project areas.
  • Currently, federal taxpayers foot 65 percent of the cost of most beach restoration projects.

The plan circulated by the White House calls for incentives to reduce that to 35 percent. That would save $50 million a year.

A recent federal study estimates the Atlantic Coast is losing an average of two to three feet per year. And some Gulf Coast areas are losing as much as six feet annually.

Source: Editorial, "Surf's Up. So Is Costly Bid to Shield 'Sand Castles,'" USA Today, April 9, 2001.


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