National Academies Press: OpenBook

Managing Coastal Erosion (1990)

Chapter: 1. Introduction and Background

« Previous: Executive Summary
Suggested Citation:"1. Introduction and Background." National Research Council. 1990. Managing Coastal Erosion. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1446.
Page 16
Suggested Citation:"1. Introduction and Background." National Research Council. 1990. Managing Coastal Erosion. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1446.
Page 17
Suggested Citation:"1. Introduction and Background." National Research Council. 1990. Managing Coastal Erosion. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1446.
Page 18
Suggested Citation:"1. Introduction and Background." National Research Council. 1990. Managing Coastal Erosion. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1446.
Page 19

Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

1 Introduction and Background Thirty of the nation's fifty states have coastlines on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Great Lakes. These 30 states contain approximately 85 percent of the nation's popula- tion, with nearly 53 percent of this population living in a 5~m~le-wide corridor bordering the coast. Projections to the end of this century indicate continued population growth within this coastal corridor, accompanied by an increasing demand for shoreline development. At present, there is considerable public concern over coastal erosion, coastal erosion control measures, and coastal land use regulations and preservation of a natural coastline. Unlike flooding, there is no well-defined federal program de- signed to mitigate property damage or loss caused by coastal ero- sion. Coastal erosion mitigation programs must be formulated in a complex policy arena in which federal, state, county, and municipal governments share jurisdictions over the coast. Consequently, each length of coast is subject to multiple layers of public authority. Like- wise, public participants (e.g., residential, industrial, commercial, preservational, or recreational) reflect another diverse set of interests in the coast. Development of a coastal erosion mitigation program is compli- cated by a number of existing conditions. First, the capability to predict coastal response to erosion-causing forces in the environment is imprecise. Second, the ability to predict erosion-causing forces is not well developed and not likely to be perfected. Third, private 16

INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND 17 erosion insurance essentially is unavailable on property built close (hundreds of feet) to an eroding shore. Erosion mitigation problems also involve the issue of cost to the public. This cost includes data acquisition and administration of an erosion management program, to say nothing of the intangible costs of the loss of beach usage. Consideration also must be given to the resources available to offset these costs. In many cases, the least costly solution to coastal erosion problems is to improve sand management practices that adversely affect shoreline stability. As examples, good-quality sand dredged from channel entrances should be placed on the adjacent beaches, and sand rn~ning from certain riverbeds near coastlines should be discontinued. The Committee Report for the Upton-Jones legislation encour- ages FEMA to participate ~ the task of developing a coastal erosion management program. This specific piece of legislation addresses problems of those states presently suffering significant erosion along their coasts. Opinions differ as to (1) whether this is an appropri- ate activity for the federal government, (2) whether it properly fans within the rubric of Insurance, and (3) whether this is the best way to address the problems of shore protection. Tr' response to the Upton-Jones legislation, some observers might argue for a laissez-faire philosophy that opts for no government in- volvement. This attitude presumes that those who take the risk of owning shorefront property and reap the benefits of living along the coast wiD respond to the marketplace or their emotions but that these individuals should make their own decisions about remaining in a potentially hazardous position. Such observers might argue fur- ther that the government should have no role in either prescribing land use or protecting those who choose to take risks. Other observers might argue in favor of a regulatory philosophy that encourages state government to manage the coast. A state program might in the long run provide a cost saving for the United States. However, the Upton-Jones legislation does provide a carrot, to those who would build or live in erosion-prone areas, to depart and let the natural systems take their course. Regardless of reaction to the existing Upton-Jones legislation, there are several types of policy goals that should be reflected in any effort by FEMA to formulate a more comprehensive national policy on erosion. First, certain goals are implicit to the National Flood Insurance Act providing FEMA's basic authority to engage in flood-related erosion mitigation:

18 MANAGING COASTAL EROSION ~ Reduce the costs, both monetary and nonmonetary, inflicted by erosion on public and private investment in coastal areas. . Reallocate the costs of erosion-related losses (including flood damage) from all federal taxpayers to the population of persons own- ing structures in flood- or erosion-prone areas through the mechanism of actuarial insurance premiums. . Promote better shoreline management to achieve multiple goals in addition to flood/erosion hazard reduction (e.g., shoreline access, water quality improvement, public recreation, and preserva- tion or restoration of natural ecosystems). A second set of goals relates to the nature of erosion as a physical process: ~ Provide flexibility in a national policy to accommodate re- gional variations stemming from differing shoreline types, erosion rates, settlement patterns, political structures, and extent of human- induced intervention in coastal processes (see Chapter 3~. Initiate action to eliminate human-induced erosion. ~ Accommodate seasonal and other temporal variation in the incidence of erosion losses (e.g., in the irregular cycles of high and Tow levels of the Great Lakes). A third set of goals relates to fairness and administrative feasi- bility: . Facilitate efficient administration through clarity of require- ments and presentation of erosion rate data on Federal Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs). ~ Avoid redundant federal studies by using existing state or focal erosion rate data, maps, and enforcement mechanisms whenever feasible. ~ Afford opportunity for the affected public to participate in the regulatory process, including right of appeal. . Place the decision-making process as close as possible to the affected property owner pursuant to national standards. ~ Promote consistency with other related federal programs (e.g., Coastal Zone Management, Clean Water Act, shore protec- tion programs, etc.~. This report has been assembled with a multidisciplinary per- spective. It expresses a consensus strengthened by the diversity of backgrounds and philosophies of the individual committee members.

INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND 19 It has drawn on the experience from existing management programs; individuals at the local, state, and federal levels; and private sector interests in the coastal zone. The committees intent in preparing this report is to provide direction to the federal government and its agencies and at the same time to provide a document to assist all members of the coastal community.

Next: 2. Coastal Erosion: Its Causes, Effects, and Distribution »
Managing Coastal Erosion Get This Book
 Managing Coastal Erosion
Buy Paperback | $60.00
MyNAP members save 10% online.
Login or Register to save!
Download Free PDF

More and more of the nation's vast coastlines are being filled with homes and vacation resorts. The result is an increasing number of structures built on erosion-prone shores—with many of these structures facing collapse or damage. In response to mounting property losses, Congress has given the Federal Emergency Management Agency responsibility for incorporating coastal erosion into its National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

This book from the National Research Council addresses the immediate question of how to develop an erosion insurance program—as well as the larger issues raised by the continually changing face of our nation's shorelines.

Managing Coastal Erosion explores major questions surrounding a national policy on coastal erosion: Should the federal government be in the business of protecting developers and individuals who build in erosion-prone coastal areas? How should such a program be implemented? Can it prompt more responsible management of coastal areas?

The volume provides federal policymakers, state floodplain and resource managers, civil engineers, environmental groups, marine specialists, development companies, and researchers with invaluable information about the natural processes of coastal erosion and the effect of human activity on those processes. The book also details the workings of the NFIP, lessons to be learned from numerous state coastal management programs, and much more.


  1. ×

    Welcome to OpenBook!

    You're looking at OpenBook,'s online reading room since 1999. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

    Do you want to take a quick tour of the OpenBook's features?

    No Thanks Take a Tour »
  2. ×

    Show this book's table of contents, where you can jump to any chapter by name.

    « Back Next »
  3. ×

    ...or use these buttons to go back to the previous chapter or skip to the next one.

    « Back Next »
  4. ×

    Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.

    « Back Next »
  5. ×

    To search the entire text of this book, type in your search term here and press Enter.

    « Back Next »
  6. ×

    Share a link to this book page on your preferred social network or via email.

    « Back Next »
  7. ×

    View our suggested citation for this chapter.

    « Back Next »
  8. ×

    Ready to take your reading offline? Click here to buy this book in print or download it as a free PDF, if available.

    « Back Next »
Stay Connected!