Approved by the Energy, Environment, and Water Policy Committee on February 24, 2021
Approved by the Public Policy and Practice Committee on May 4, 2021
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 16, 2021
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports restoration and maintenance of beaches and associated barrier islands as a matter of public health and safety. ASCE supports:
- The U.S. Army Corps of Civil Engineers (USACE) Federal Shore Protection Program, which provides design guidance and authorization for federal participation in shore protection studies, restoration projects, and cost sharing.
- Periodic beach nourishment and environmental restoration components through USACE Regional Sediment Management (RSM) programs.
- Regional dredged material management plans for targeted sharing and responsible use of limited sediment resources.
- Streamlined and effective regulatory processes to improve regional cooperation among local governments and projects.
- Further research into ecologically sound and sustainable methods of beach management and restoration.
- Continued funding to restore and maintain beaches as a means of reducing coastal storm and flood risk vulnerability.
- Beach nourishment projects that utilize updated design standards to address increased frequency and intensity of storms events.
- Outreach and education on the importance of beach nourishment for a healthy ecosystem and shoreline resiliency.
Shores and beaches are an important natural resource for the nation. Beach and dune restoration projects provide natural coastal protection against storm damage related to storm surge, high waves, and coastal flooding. Beach and dune systems also provide vital environmental and ecological habitat serving as resilient means of coastal protection. According to the National Ocean Service, nearly 40% of the US population lives in coastal counties which constitutes 10% for the nation’s land mass, thus a relatively high population density. These coastal communities, whose local economies often rely upon tourism-generated revenue, are at an increased risk of high-tide/sunny day flooding, hurricanes, sea level rise, erosion, and climate change impacts with dire consequences.
Increases in the frequency and intensity of storms and flood events has resulted in growing reliance of FEMA Disaster Relief Funds. Proactive and mitigative planning and project implementation is paramount to the health and safety of our coastlines and the people who live in coastal communities. 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 due to erosion.
In order to reduce coastal storm and flood risk vulnerabilities, effectively placed Federal participation and funding for in beach nourishment and restoration should be maintained, expanded, and coordinated with local agency efforts to maintain their beaches and barrier islands. The availability of beach quality sand sources is scarce, and the economic impacts associated with dredging those sources is continually increasing. With a finite amount of resources available sustainable beach management practices through RSM initiatives are needed which bring carefully facilitated participation of local, state, and federal agencies.
Most of the highly recognized beaches around the country have benefited from engineered shoreline projects. The first federal intervention in shore protection came in 1930 (Rivers and Harbors Act of 1930), which directed the Chief of Engineers to initiate investigations and studies in cooperation with appropriate state agencies to develop means for preventing shoreline erosion. The 1950 Rivers and Harbors Act and the 1954 Flood Control Act provided authorization for federal participation in shore protection studies, project design, and cost sharing with local partners. For decades, the federal government has partnered with state and local governments to fund on-going beach restoration projects, including periodic beach re-nourishment.
Beaches provide vital storm damage reduction, as well as environmental, economic, and recreational benefits to the nation. 2020 marked the tenth consecutive year with 8 or more billion-dollar hurricanes. In many cases, these damages were exacerbated by the erosional loss of beaches, barrier islands and coastal wetlands. These significant losses emphasize the importance of engineered approaches to restore and maintain beaches and barrier islands which are integrated into RSM programs. Beach and barrier island restoration is often the simplest and most economical form of coastal protection to design and construct, particularly if nearshore and offshore sand sources are available.
ASCE Policy Statement 507
First Approved in 2004
ASCE PS 360 Impacts of Climate Change
ASCE PS 522 Regional Sediment Management