Thursday, January 3, 2013

Student Voices - #5

Michelle Murillo
December 2012 

Beach Restoration Projects: Short-term solutions
to Long-term Problems

In an era of changing climate and rising seas, it makes little or no sense to reconstruct or fix storm caused damages especially in disaster-prone areas. History shows us,in the recent four decades alone, nearly a dozen hurricanes and other large storms have rolled in taken lives and knocked down houses, along with destroying other infrastructure such as sewers, water pipes, roads and other utilities.[1] The costs for subsidizing beach restoration projects is very high, needless to say the money invested in rebuilding will eventually increase the vulnerability of that beach that existed before the hurricane.

Dr. Young, a coastal geologist at Western Carolina University is quoted in a New York Times article, “We need to identify those areas—in advance—that it no longer makes sense to rebuild”.[2] Federal and state governments should consider all the factors in order to sustain beaches for now and for the future. Ultimately decisions should be made on which beaches and coastlines we can afford and should rebuild. However, we cannot save them all, for it is essentially a waste of money and it puts the lives of people living in those disaster-prone areas at great risk. It simply does not make sense to subsidize the enormous numbers of people living in these areas.

It is clear that beaches have an economic advantage to its local residents; they tend to be hot spots for tourism, attracting people to hotels, restaurants, and other businesses. Bottom line: it is an important source of income to local residents. There may also be an emotional attachment to the land, whether it may be because of its wildlife or for its aesthetics. Furthermore, I do believe that we have a moral obligation to protect other species that live around the shore for it is the ethical thing to do. However, it is the people that insist on having flagrant beach mansions or that feel they cannot live anywhere else but on the coast that seems very irrational to me.

Gillis and Barringer state that in the case of Dauphin Island in Alabama, federal subsidies have helped communities replace small beach shacks with larger, more valuable homes. Evidently, it is clear why storm recovery costs are soaring every time a storm hits. The same article states that across the nation, tens of billions of tax dollars have been spent on subsidizing beach restoration projects, with little consideration of whether it actually makes sense to do so. A Wall Street Journal article by Alison Fox states that just in New Jersey, the governor and the congressional delegation is pushing the federal government to pay for remodeling the state’s coastline with wider beaches and dunes to protect beach houses from the ocean’s future tidal surges. All of these subsidies to replenishing the Jersey Shore’s beaches are expected to cost at least $750 million.[3]

Restoring everything back to the way it was, I think, would encourage homeowners and businesses to keep rebuilding recklessly in these areas that are clearly prone to future flooding and disaster as climate continues to change. The federal government should stop encouraging people to live in these areas of danger by pulling back on subsidizing beach restoration projects. It not only makes sense in an environmental perspective but subsidizing big projects like these are done at the expense of taxpayers at large. The questions whether it makes sense to rebuild should be raised before starting such projects; more importantly we should start making long-term decisions rather than coming up with unsustainable, short-term solutions regarding global climate change and its impacts.[4]

[1] Gillis, J. and F.Barringer. "As Coasts Rebuild and U.S. Pays, Repeatedly, the Critics Ask Why." The New York Times. The New York Times, 19 Nov. 2012. Web. 04 Dec. 2012.
[2] Gillis, J. and F.Barringer. Ibid.
[3] Fox, A. "Shore Houses Packed in Sand." The Wall Street Journal. The Wall Street Journal, 23 Nov. 2012. Web. 04 Dec. 2012. 
[4] See also: Matthews, C. "Should the Federal Government Be Subsidizing Flood Insurance?" TIME. TIME, 30 Oct. 2012. Web. 04 Dec. 2012.

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