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Policy Statement 507 - Restoring and Maintaining Beaches

 

Approved by the Energy, Environment, and Water Policy Committee on March 30, 2018
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on May 6, 2018
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 13, 2018

Policy 

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 sharing and responsible use of limited sediment resources;
  • A more streamlined regulatory process to improve regional cooperation among local governments and projects;
  • Further research into ecologically sound and sustainable methods of beach management and restoration;
  • Continued and additional funding to restore and maintain beaches as a means of reducing storm and flood risk vulnerability; and
  • Federal and non-federal beach nourishment projects that utilize updated design standards to address increased frequency and intensity of storms events.

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 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. This partnership has resulted in 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 due to erosion. As a result, beaches, their upland coastal communities, and infrastructure are at an increased risk of damage from major storm events and hurricanes. The increasing frequency and intensity of hurricanes have 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.

In order to reduce coastal storm and flood risk vulnerabilities, strong federal participation and funding for in beach nourishment and restoration should be maintained. With a finite amount of resources available (in both sand sources and funding), sustainable beach management practices and a federal lead role must be included in RSM initiatives. 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. 

Rationale 

Beaches provide vital storm damage reduction, as well as environmental, economic and recreational benefits to the nation. The catastrophic damage caused by recent storms was exacerbated by the loss of beaches, barrier islands and coastal wetlands. These significant losses emphasize the importance of restoring and maintaining beaches and their associated barrier islands as part of an integrated storm protection system within a framework of RSM programs. The RSM program helps to facilitate the best use of limited resources (both in sediment and dollars). The availability of beach quality sand sources is scarce, and the economic impacts associated with dredging those sources is continually increasing.

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 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


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