FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 24, 2011
Contact: Ken or Kate Gooderham -- (239) 489-2616
Who pays for beach restoration?
Funding for beach management is as varied and unique as the projects themselves
One issue that typically arises when the topic turns to beach restoration is a bottom-line one: Who pays? If you looks at projects around the country, and at media stories concerning the issue of beach restoration funding, you'll find many different answers...and an unfortunate dollop of disinformation, too. Let's look at some of the fact -- and fiction -- about funding beach restoration projects.
Claim: The federal government pays for all beach restoration projects.
Fact: Not true. Even when a project receives federal authorization (which isn't very common and is a very arduous process to navigate), those project costs are still shared with other partners -- state and local government, property owners and others. At best, the federal share might be 65% of the total project costs -- and usually it's much lower than that.
Claim: Taxpayers far away from the shoreline are forced to pay for beach restoration.
Fact: Arguably, true...just as all federal taxpayers contribute to any expenditure authorized by the federal government. However, those same taxpayers benefit from the tax revenues which beaches bring in (one informed calculation says the federal government brings in an average of $320 for every $1 it spend on beach management), so a similar case could be made that beach communities pay for lots of federal expenditures in towns far away from the coastline, too.
Claim: Beachfront property owners are subsidized by federal restoration projects.
Fact: Hard to make a solid case for this. Usually, owners whose properties are protected by a wider beach have to contribute to the cost of that protection; the amount can vary widely, based on the project's apportionment plan. But those same properties generate a lot of tax revenue (federal as well as state and local) and pay a lot in flood insurance premiums (which often go to subsidize other areas who are not forced to pay as much into the system). Plus, a wider beach will lessen storm damage... which can lower (or even eliminate) the federal cost of disaster recovery along the coast, saving all taxpayers that cost.
Claim: Sea level rise makes beach restoration futile.
Fact: Quite the contrary. Beach restoration is actually a reasonable first response to rising seas, at least in areas where abandoning the coast is simply not feasible or practical. A higher and wider beach keeps waves away from valuable coastal structures and infrastructure in the face of gradually rising seas, allowing time for a long-term response to be formulated as the actual impact of actual sea level rise (as opposed to widely divergent projections) is assessed.
Claim: Federal money is always required for beach restoration projects.
Fact: Not true. Some restoration projects are accomplished without any federal funding, instead relying on a mix of funding sources as varied as the kinds of projects. Some projects work from state and local funds; some incorporate a special taxing district or tourist-generated revenues as part of their apportionment plan; some are done on a strictly private basis, with no government funding whatsoever. There is no single way to pay for restoration, just as there is no single way to put sand back on beaches.
The bottom line: Beach restoration funding is as varied and different as projects themselves. Broad generalizations about funding are simplistic at best, dangerous at worst, and should be avoided if possible.
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