James R. Houston, 2021. “The economic value of beach nourishment in South Carolina”, Shore & Beach, 89(3), 3-12.
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The economic value of beach nourishment in South Carolina
James R. Houston
Director Emeritus, Engineer Research and Development Center
Tourism has become increasingly important in South Carolina’s economy, particularly beach tourism that accounts for two-thirds of tourist spending. Maintaining beaches is a requirement for a successful beach tourism industry. In the past 30 years, about 1.7 million yd3 of sand has been placed annually on South Carolina beaches. The annual cost has been $20.2 million in 2019 dollars or $13.9 million (2019 dollars) if federal mitigation and emergency sand placements are not included because their purpose was not in support of tourism. Beach nourishment has been very successful in combating shoreline recession. From 1984-1987 through 2006, South Carolina shorelines that were not nourished receded 101 ft on average, and shorelines that were nourished advanced 110 ft on average — and tourism boomed. South Carolina beach tourists generate $16.6 billion annually in South Carolina economic development and about $1.8 billion in taxes. For each $1 spent on beach nourishment, South Carolina receives over $1,200 in economic development generated by beach tourists and federal, state, and local governments receive almost $130 in taxes. Beach tourists have options, and with the state government spending only $3.1 million annually on beach nourishment versus the Florida state government spending $50 million on Florida beaches, South Carolina must be careful to maintain its beaches to continue attracting tourists at record levels.