Poor Coastal Development

Dubai beach constructions View Dubai Gallery
Hurricane Katrina Destruction View Hurricane Katrina and Ike Gallery

Developed coasts change natural beach processes. Even a single building alters natural movement of wind which can disrupt sand transport, movement of rainwater runoff, and negatively impact plants and animals. Aesthetically, development reduces the quality of visits by tourists and once development begins, more follows. The long history of beach development in Europe and the northeastern United States has resulted in heavy modification of, and in some cases total destruction of, natural beaches.

Development on coasts is in grave danger in the coming decades from the combination of sea level rise and storms. When coastal development is built too close to the shore, the results can be devastating as evidenced by recent hurricanes Ike and Katrina in the United States. Two simple concepts must be followed:

  1. Do not build a house that will be underwater in the next 50 years and
  2. Do not build a house that will be knocked down by a storm.

These two basic principles are seldom followed today and when they are not, the costs can be human lives and billions of dollars.

After a large storm strikes, rebuilding is often financed with public money. Once a coastal community has been developed, rebuilding efforts often focus on putting things back the way they were rather than making objective decisions about changes that need to be made based on the rising sea. Developed coastlines need to retreat from the coast to allow the beach to move. Coastlines are dynamic, but buildings are not. More information on this topic can be found at the website of The Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina, USA.

Australian Gold Coast Australian Gold Coast

Map of North and South America shows increasing populations in coastal areas, which will expose 2.75 billion people worldwide to the effects of sea level rise and other coastal threats posed by global warming.

Map of Africa, Europe, and Asia shows projected population change for 2025 Map of Africa, Europe, and Asia shows projected population change for 2025. This map was developed by the Center for Climate Systems Research (CCSR) of the Earth Institute at Columbia University shows the human migration to the coast. Credit: Stuart Gaffin, Lee Hachadoorian, and Robert Engelman.
Map of North and South America shows increasing populations in coastal areas This map was developed by the Center for Climate Systems Research (CCSR) of the Earth Institute at Columbia University shows the human migration to the coast. Credit: Stuart Gaffin, Lee Hachadoorian, and Robert Engelman.

Surfing in / Poor Coastal Development

How clam-diggers saved an estuary

How decisions almost a half-century ago continue to impact our natural resources. As a result of a stalled development in the 1960s, changes in the Necanicum River estuary, north of Seaside Oregon, remain evident today.

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Californians Fight Over Whether Coast Should Be Rugged or Refined

The California Coastal Commission, created 45 years ago, has been one of the most powerful governmental agencies in the nation, with sweeping powers to determine what gets built, or does not get built, on the 1,100 miles of cliffs, mountains and beaches along the Pacific Ocean. It has mediated the often clashing agendas of two of the most influential forces that help to define this state: environmentalism and the drive for growth.

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Beach erosion making St Clair too dangerous, New Zealand

Dunedin surfers and lifeguards are calling for urgent council action to save St Clair beach. The call comes as the city prepares to host the National Surf Championships next week. Beach erosion has been a problem at St Clair for more than a century, as waves hitting the sea wall bounce off with more energy than those washing back from a regular beach.

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White sand, black gold: when oil derricks loomed over California beaches

As California population boomed in the decades following the gold rush of 1849, there was a rapidly growing demand for petroleum. By 1920, California was producing 77 million barrels of oil a year, and vast stretches of the state were occupied by derricks, and refineries. In coastal places such as Venice, oil derricks ran right up to the shore, mingling with residential neighborhoods and pristine beaches.

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Chennai floods are not a natural disaster, Tamil Nadu, India

As a city on the high-energy coast facing the Bay of Bengal, Chennai is no stranger to heavy rains and cyclonic storms. But with every invitation to “Make in Chennai”, the city is unmaking itself and eroding its resilience to perfectly normal monsoon weather events. The infrastructure of big commerce has replaced the infrastructure to withstand natural shocks.

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Supreme Court Ruling Freezes Plans For Captain Sam’s Spit, SC

The state Supreme Court has ruled in favor of environmentalists who oppose a developer’s plan for residential construction on Captain Sam’s Spit.

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‘Repetitive Loss’ Properties Raise Debate Over Rebuilding After Floods

Throughout Connecticut, thousands of homes have suffered: repetitive loss, as FEMA calls it, from flooding. Many residents have rebuilt multiple times. And many, also have used government funds from an alphabet soup of federal programs and agencies to do some, if not all, of the work. But shoreline and climate experts, public officials and others have grown increasingly critical of such programs.

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Disappearing Beaches of India

Beaches and coasts are amazing wonders of nature. India’s coastline stretches for around 7,500 kilometers. Yet, as much as 40% of India’s coastline is eroding at an alarming level, not only in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, but also in many other beaches.

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Lenses of Fresh Water Under Langeoog

Langeoog is one of several sandy barrier islands along Germany’s North Sea coast. The island, about 8 kilometers (5 miles) north of the German mainland, formed about 2,800 to 2,200 years ago.

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Recent / Poor Coastal Development

Beach erosion making St Clair too dangerous, New Zealand

January 10th, 2016

Dunedin surfers and lifeguards are calling for urgent council action to save St Clair beach. The call comes as the city prepares to host the National Surf Championships next week. Beach erosion has been a problem at St Clair for more than a century, as waves hitting the sea wall bounce off with more energy than those washing back from a regular beach.

Read More

White sand, black gold: when oil derricks loomed over California beaches

December 8th, 2015

As California population boomed in the decades following the gold rush of 1849, there was a rapidly growing demand for petroleum. By 1920, California was producing 77 million barrels of oil a year, and vast stretches of the state were occupied by derricks, and refineries. In coastal places such as Venice, oil derricks ran right up to the shore, mingling with residential neighborhoods and pristine beaches.

Read More

Chennai floods are not a natural disaster, Tamil Nadu, India

December 3rd, 2015

As a city on the high-energy coast facing the Bay of Bengal, Chennai is no stranger to heavy rains and cyclonic storms. But with every invitation to “Make in Chennai”, the city is unmaking itself and eroding its resilience to perfectly normal monsoon weather events. The infrastructure of big commerce has replaced the infrastructure to withstand natural shocks.

Read More

Supreme Court Ruling Freezes Plans For Captain Sam’s Spit, SC

November 30th, 2015

The state Supreme Court has ruled in favor of environmentalists who oppose a developer’s plan for residential construction on Captain Sam’s Spit.

Read More

‘Repetitive Loss’ Properties Raise Debate Over Rebuilding After Floods

October 13th, 2015

Throughout Connecticut, thousands of homes have suffered: repetitive loss, as FEMA calls it, from flooding. Many residents have rebuilt multiple times. And many, also have used government funds from an alphabet soup of federal programs and agencies to do some, if not all, of the work. But shoreline and climate experts, public officials and others have grown increasingly critical of such programs.

Read More

Disappearing Beaches of India

June 6th, 2015

Beaches and coasts are amazing wonders of nature. India’s coastline stretches for around 7,500 kilometers. Yet, as much as 40% of India’s coastline is eroding at an alarming level, not only in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, but also in many other beaches.

Read More

Lenses of Fresh Water Under Langeoog

May 19th, 2015

Langeoog is one of several sandy barrier islands along Germany’s North Sea coast. The island, about 8 kilometers (5 miles) north of the German mainland, formed about 2,800 to 2,200 years ago.

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Letter: Beach Erosion Lesson

April 14th, 2015

The Kiawah Island developers who want legislators to change a proposed state law so that they can build on accreted beach should look at the east end of Folly Island to see the absurdity of their desire.

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Facing Coastal Erosion: a Dilemma for the Residents

March 24th, 2015

This past week’s exceptionally high tides revived a debate that has been dividing residents of the Atlantic island of Noirmoutier, off Vendée’s coast, France.

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A City Without a Shore: Rem Koolhaas, Dalieh and the Paving of Beirut’s Coast

March 17th, 2015

A development frenzy has wiped out the natural coastline of Lebanon, replacing it with concreted marinas and upscale resorts that are off-limits to the public. Now developers have their eye on the last bit of Beirut waterfront

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