James R. Houston, 2022. “The value of beach nourishment on a complex shoreline”, Shore & Beach, 90(1), 3-15
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The value of beach nourishment on a complex shoreline
James R. Houston
U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, 3909 Halls Ferry Road, Vicksburg, MS 39180
Lee County has the most complex shoreline among Florida’s 25 counties where beach nourishment has been placed. It has eight shoreline breaks such as passes (inlets) that have produced a very complex pattern of both significant shoreline recession and accretion since 1858. Beach nourishment would seem problematic on those shorelines that have experienced significant long-term recession. However, nourishment has been very successful, widening beaches an average of 132 ft from their first nourishments to 2018 along shorelines that had historically receded hundreds of feet. Tourism is the backbone of Lee County’s economy, supporting one of every five jobs. Beaches are the key to the county’s tourism, with more day visits annually than to the 12 most visited National Parks in America. Over 80% of Lee County tourists are beach tourists, and they had a 2019 economic impact in Lee County of $4.3 billion. Beach tourists generated $843 million in total taxes to federal, state, and local governments with these governments receiving $580, $160, and $40, respectively, in taxes for each $1 that they spent on beach nourishment. Moreover, Lee County received an economic impact of $690 for every $1 spent on beach nourishment. International beach tourists spent $462 million in Lee County in 2019, providing a gain in the U.S. international balance of payments. An investment in beach nourishment produces such compelling returns in taxes generated by beach tourists that the state and federal governments should reassess their priorities for this investment versus investments in inland flood control and navigation.