The nation's beaches are prime destinations for tourists and provide national amenities ranging from bathing, surfing, and sunning to picnicking and fishing—all enhanced by outstanding aesthetic enjoyment. Beaches are the leading tourist destinations in the United States, with historical sites and parks being the second most popular (USA Today, 1993). For example, Miami Beach reported more tourist visits (21 million) than were made to any national Park Service property (Wiegel, 1992). Miami Beach had more than twice the combined tourist visits of Yellowstone (2.6 million), the Grand Canyon (4.0 million), and Yosemite (3.3 million). Beaches are America's playland and economic heartlands and were estimated to contribute $170 billion annually to the economy in 1995 (Houston, 1995).
Travel and tourism is by far the nation's largest industry. It contributed $746 billion to the U.S. economy in 1995 (Wall Street Journal, 1995). This amount was over 10 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, and makes the contribution of travel and tourism second only to that of the total retail trade. Travel and tourism are providing increasing international trade surpluses for the United States that exceed the total for all agricultural products (Wall Street Journal, 1993; 1995). Worldwide, travel and tourism revenues were $2.9 trillion in 1993 (Miller, 1993).
The value of tourism, along with the contribution of beaches to the economy, is not lost on America's economic competitors. Germany, Japan, and Spain far outspend the United States on beach and coastal protection projects, even though their coastlines are much shorter (Kelletat, 1992; Marine Facilities Panel, 1991; Ministerio de Obras Publicas y Transportes, n.d.).
In the past, beach nourishment projects have primarily involved the restoration of beaches for recreation in regions that enjoyed large tourist populations. Such restoration has demonstrated outstanding benefit-cost ratios. The Miami Beach example illustrates both the problem and the benefits. Miami Beach had virtually no beach in the 1970s. As a result, tourist facilities had deteriorated and tourism was desultory. Rejuvenation of the beaches in the late 1970s and opening the beaches to the public produced a remarkable public response. Lifeguard counts and aerial surveys showed that beach use increased from eight million visitors in 1978 to twenty-one million in 1983 (Wall Street Journal, 1993). In 1995, more than two million foreign tourists visited Miami Beach, and spent over $2 billion (World Alamanac, 1994). Annual foreign revenue alone is about 40 times the $52 million cost of this beach nourishment project. The project has lasted 18 years, with a capitalized cost of about $3 million per year. Every dollar spent on nourishing the beach returns $700 in foreign revenue.
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.
Houston, J. R 1995. Beach nourishment Pp. 21-24 Nicholas Kraus (ed.) in Coastal Forum, Shore & Beach. Vicksburg, Miss.: Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory.
Kelletat, D. 1992. Coastal erosion and protection measures at the German North Sea coast J. Coastal Research 8(3):699-711.
Marine Facilities Panel. 1991. U.S. Japan Wind and Seismic Effects Panel, 17th Joint Meeting, Tokyo.
Miller, M. L. 1993. The rise of coastal and marine tourism. Ocean and Coastal Management 20:181-199.
Ministerio de Obras Publicas y Transportes. N.d. Recuperando la costa. Serie Monografias. Madrid: Centro de Publicaciones.
USA Today. 1993. More plan vacations this year. March 17.
Wall Street Journal. April 2, 1993. Quiet boom, U.S. service exports are growing rapidly but almost unnoticed. A1.
Wall Street Journal. March 1, 1995. Travel, tourism will produce 10.5% of U.S. output this year. A8.
Wiegel, R. L. 1992. Dade County, Florida, beach nourishment and hurricane surge study. Shore and Beach 60(4):2-26.
World Almanac. 1994. Mahwah, N. J.: Funk & Wagnalls.