The American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) and its North Carolina subsidiary  continue its disingenuous ways in promoting development along our ocean shorelines. This time it is a story in a 2007 ASBPA newsletter, circulating in North Carolina communities seeking funding from taxpayers for beach nourishment, which quotes a report that says beach nourishment is four times less costly than retreating from shorelines.  

In North Carolina, there are basically 2 permanent alternatives to those imprudent enough to build next to an eroding shoreline: pump up sand or get out of there. But the report in the newsletter is about Delaware. And it is grossly inaccurate.

The newsletter says it will cost $60 million to nourish the Delaware beaches over the next 50 years, and nearly $240 million to retreat from the coast. According to our figures, however, almost $60 million has already been spent nourishing the Delaware coast – in just the past four years!

The proposed Dare County beach nourishment project design (by the Corps) estimated that the cost of nourishing only fourteen miles of beach for 50 years would be $1.6 billion, while the cost to purchase all the property that would be lost in that time would be $400 million. This means that in this real world example, nourishment costs $32 million per year versus retreat costs of $8 million per year. This is the same 4:1 ratio found in the ASBPA study only, in this real word North Carolina example, the cost of nourishment is four time higher than the cost of retreat. While thethe costs of retreat and nourishment are highly variable from place to place, the Delaware example doesn’t even come close to reality.

Retreat is a viable option that is becoming more and more realistic as substantial acceleration of the sea level rise becomes more and more likely.

In its relentless and underhanded pursuit of beach nourishment, the ASBPA once again shows itself to be in the stone age. Will the ASBPA ever chill out and tell the truth??


  1. Adam Searing

    May 14, 2008 at 9:34 am

    Probably not! I do have a question though – what is a good book that reviews coastal issues like this for someone who isn’t a scientist?


  2. Orrin Pilkey

    May 14, 2008 at 9:59 am

    At the risk of sounding like I am selling books ( I don’t get royalties from these), but I would first recommend The North Carolina Shore and Its Barrier Islands (1998) and Living by the Rules of the Sea (1996). There’s a lot of this in the engineering technical literature but much less in the public literature.

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