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Policy Statement 507 - Restoring and Maintaining Beaches

 

Approved by the Energy, Environment, and Water Policy Committee on February 9, 2015
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on May 18, 2015
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 18, 2015

Policy 

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports restoration and maintenance of beaches and their associated barrier islands as a matter of public health and safety. ASCE supports: 

  • The Federal Shore Protection Program.
  • Periodic beach nourishment and environmental restoration components through U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Regional Sediment Management programs.
  • Regional dredged material management plans.
  • Further research into ecologically sound methods of beach maintenance and restoration.

Issue 

Shores and beaches are a national resource and their restoration and protection provides vital benefits to the nation through storm damage reduction and ecological restoration. The federal government has partnered with state and local governments to fund on-going beach restoration projects, including periodic beach re-nourishment, for decades. This has provided well-engineered, successful solutions to coastal erosion.

In the last decade, beach restoration has suffered from a lack of funding and there has been significant loss of both beaches and barrier islands from erosion. This in turn increased the risk of damage from major storms. Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy emphasized the vulnerability of eroded portions of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts and should be a reminder of the importance of beach maintenance and restoration. The federal role in beach nourishment and restoration should be maintained and funding should be provided to maintain a strong federal presence in the restoration and maintenance of America's beaches including a leading role in Regional Sediment Management.  Whether Federal funding is available or not, coastal state governments must maintain their beaches and barrier islands to protect vulnerable coastal communities and ecologically significant wetlands. Beach erosion involves complicated processes of wind and wave mechanics as well as associated impacts of coastal infrastructure and further research is needed.

Rationale 

Beaches provide vital storm damage reduction, as well as environmental, economic and recreational benefits to the nation. The recent catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Katrina, which was exacerbated by the loss of beaches, barrier islands and coastal wetlands, emphasizes the importance of restoring and maintaining beaches and their associated barrier islands as part of an integrated storm protection system within a framework of Regional Sediment Management Programs. 

A majority of U.S. residents live within 50 miles of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Gulf of Mexico and the five Great Lakes. The nation's beaches are the leading tourist destination for millions of domestic and foreign visitors, providing jobs and business profits, which in turn produce billions of dollars of tax revenues for the federal government, as well as state and local governments. Many of the most recognized beaches around the country have benefited from well-designed engineering projects. 

Continued funding for engineered beach restoration and enhancement projects remains important to ensure that this resource remains available for future generations.  Beach and barrier island restoration is often the simplest coastal protection to design and construct, particularly if there is an offshore source of sand that can be pumped.  

ASCE Policy Statement 507
First Approved in 2004

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