Beaches have been called "rivers of sand." Sand supplied by rivers and erosion of coastal rock and sorted by wave action slowly moves along a coast as ocean waves, approaching from an angle, suspend and move sand grains. Storm waves, however, attack beaches and often move sand offshore. A reduction in the supply of sand, such as that caused by damming contributing streams, storm waves, or the placement of an obstruction to the alongshore movement of sand, such as a jetty, will deplete a beach. Restoration may consist of moving sand to a beach from offshore deposits, providing sand from onshore sources, constructing control structures, or a combination of these means. As practiced for flood damage reduction, navigation, and other kinds of environmental restoration, evaluation of the costs of maintaining a beach relative to its benefits will determine the feasibility of a beach nourishment project.
As is the case for other kinds of Corps projects, not all proposed beach nourishment projects are feasible or desirable. Advocates of marsh restoration along the Louisiana coast have proposed restoration of deteriorating barrier islands offshore, for example, and the U.S. Geological Survey has identified a source of sand (Ship Shoal) further offshore that might be used for this purpose. The barrier islands are composed of sand from historic deltas and are no longer supplied with sand. That lack of supply, erosion by waves, and the continuing subsidence of the delta contribute to the deterioration of the islands. Restoration would require additions of sand in perpetuity that, combined with the subsidence of the marshes and lack of a supply of fine sediments to maintain their elevation, detracts from the feasibility of this proposed project. Where there are clear environmental, human, and economic benefits, however, beach nourishment may clearly meet the criteria of the P&G.
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