Poor Coastal Development
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:
- Do not build a house that will be underwater in the next 50 years and
- 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.
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.
Surfing in / Poor Coastal Development
Once a playground for the elite, who traveled from as far as Chicago to spend time at the hotels that lined the Winthrop beach in the early 20th century, the beach has been eroding over the past century. The process was accelerated by the installation of walls that were put up, which removed the source of natural sediment that once helped create the beach. Visitors can find evidence of what waves can do to manmade structures.
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On a narrow stretch of Sand Key, Fl., the beach has eroded from months of rushing waves. Tides eat away at the coast, sweeping sand back into the gulf. Unstopped by the shore, water rolls to the seawall, 20 feet from condominiums. Bordered by 825 miles of sandy shoreline, Florida tops the nation in federally funded beach renourishment.
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Sea erosion is a natural phenomenon, it is an interplay between water, wind and sand, and this process helps keeping the intricate balance of coastal ecosystem. By erecting manmade structures in the sea, or on the beach, this process becomes crippled and the sea must find “other methods.”
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Concerned citizens in Barbados are rallying against proposals for tourism development at Cove Bay, St. Lucy.
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A stretch of Highway one, roughly a 40-foot section, near Big Sur, slid into the ocean.
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A year ago the hurricane winds of Storm Xynthia drove the sea over much of the Charente-Maritime and Vendée coastline to devastating effect. Many people lost their lives. France’s Government has set up a new coastal defence plan costing €500 million over six years.
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The next winter storm is threatening to wash away beach-side homes in Montauk. Concerned residents, however, are not blaming Mother Nature, but rather jetties built by the Army Corps of Engineers about 20 years ago.
Boskalis is sourcing the sand for the land reclamation process from its own borrow area…
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A documentary about proposed development at south end of Kiawah Island, produced by Mary Edna Fraser and Celie Dailey. Includes interviews with Dr. Orrin Pilkey, Professor of Earth Scieces at Duke University, and Nancy Vinson, Coastal Conservation League’s Program Director for Air and Water Quality.
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