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

Letter: Beach Erosion Lesson

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

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

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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Time to Get Serious About Protecting Beaches

Much of the coastline along the eastern seaboard is composed of barrier islands whose geography is in constant flux.

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Waikiki Beach Is Totally Man-Made And Disappearing. Can Hawaii Save It?

Waikiki Beach has had erosion problems since the late-1800s when developers began erecting hotels and homes too close to the natural shoreline and building seawalls and other structures that blocked the natural ebb and flow of sand along the beach.

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Congressional Caucus Will Focus on Coastal Issues

A bipartisan caucus has been formed in the U.S. House of Representatives to address coastal community issues including storm protection, tourism and environmental issues.

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Robert Young: Seaward of Common Sense? SC Needs to Put an End to Building on the Beach

South Carolina’s beautiful beaches are a vital component of this state’s economy. Managing them wisely is critical to the health of the economy and to ensuring that state and local tax dollars are not wasted on futile efforts to protect homes needlessly placed in areas of obvious high hazard.

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For Vulnerable Barrier Islands, A Rush to Rebuild on U.S. Coast

Despite warnings from scientists, new construction continues on U.S. barrier islands that have been devastated by storms. The flood protection projects that accompany this development can have harmful consequences for coastal ecosystems being buffeted by climate change.

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World’s Beaches Being Washed Away Due to Coastal Development

From Florida to the Costa del Sol, costly sea defences are accelerating beach erosion and will ultimately fail to protect coastal towns and cities from rising tides, say experts Andrew Cooper and Orrin Pilkey in a new book “The Last Beach.”

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Recent / Poor Coastal Development

Time to Get Serious About Protecting Beaches

March 13th, 2015

Much of the coastline along the eastern seaboard is composed of barrier islands whose geography is in constant flux.

Read More

Waikiki Beach Is Totally Man-Made And Disappearing. Can Hawaii Save It?

March 10th, 2015

Waikiki Beach has had erosion problems since the late-1800s when developers began erecting hotels and homes too close to the natural shoreline and building seawalls and other structures that blocked the natural ebb and flow of sand along the beach.

Read More

Congressional Caucus Will Focus on Coastal Issues

March 5th, 2015

A bipartisan caucus has been formed in the U.S. House of Representatives to address coastal community issues including storm protection, tourism and environmental issues.

Read More

Robert Young: Seaward of Common Sense? SC Needs to Put an End to Building on the Beach

February 12th, 2015

South Carolina’s beautiful beaches are a vital component of this state’s economy. Managing them wisely is critical to the health of the economy and to ensuring that state and local tax dollars are not wasted on futile efforts to protect homes needlessly placed in areas of obvious high hazard.

Read More

For Vulnerable Barrier Islands, A Rush to Rebuild on U.S. Coast

January 18th, 2015

Despite warnings from scientists, new construction continues on U.S. barrier islands that have been devastated by storms. The flood protection projects that accompany this development can have harmful consequences for coastal ecosystems being buffeted by climate change.

Read More

World’s Beaches Being Washed Away Due to Coastal Development

December 15th, 2014

From Florida to the Costa del Sol, costly sea defences are accelerating beach erosion and will ultimately fail to protect coastal towns and cities from rising tides, say experts Andrew Cooper and Orrin Pilkey in a new book “The Last Beach.”

Read More

Gated Communities on the Water Aggravate Flooding in Argentina

November 25th, 2014

The construction of gated communities on wetlands and floodplains in Greater Buenos Aires has modified fragile ecosystems and water cycles and has aggravated flooding.

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Reuters’ Water’s Edge Report – Part II

September 19th, 2014

Despite laws intended to curb development where rising seas pose the greatest threat, Reuters finds that government is happy to help the nation indulge in its passion for beachfront living.

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Xynthia Deadly Storm: The Trial Opens

September 15th, 2014

Four years after a deadly storm devastated part of France west coast, killing 29 people in La Faute sur Mer town, the trial opens. Four elected officials and a real estate agent are indicted for aggravated manslaughter.

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Caofeidian, The Chinese Eco-City That Became a Ghost Town – In Pictures

July 28th, 2014

“As precious as gold … That was how then-president Hu Jintao described Caofeidian during his visit in 2006. It was pledged to be ‘the world’s first fully realised eco-city’ – yet 10 years and almost $100bn later, only a few thousand inhabitants have moved to this land reclaimed from the sea …”

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