ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Institute for Water Resources (IWR) recently released its “California Regional Assessment National Shoreline Management Study” report. This report provides an assessment of the effects of erosion and accretion upon socio-economics and the environment, and what management actions are being taken or are needed to maintain resilient shorelines.
The National Shoreline Management Study
The Congressionally authorized National Shoreline Management Study (NSMS) is the first undertaking in nearly a half century to document the physical, economic, environmental, and social impacts of shoreline change across each region of the U.S. The NSMS provides government policymakers, coastal engineers and scientists, and stakeholders with information about the coastal regions most in need of resilience planning.
The California Regional Assessment
The purpose of the California Regional Assessment is to describe the physical, environmental, and economic aspects of erosion and accretion of the coastal shoreline for the entire state. It also describes systems approaches to sediment and shoreline management advocated by a collaboration of federal, state, and local agencies and key stakeholders in California. The study objectives were to:
• describe regional characteristics including shoreline habitat, coastal and sediment processes, and specific features for the major regions of California, including differences in effects and magnitude of erosion and accretion along the northern coast, the central coast, and the southern coast;
• identify the economic and environmental impacts of erosion and accretion;
• identify the potential effects of future sea level rise and climate change on the shoreline and their effects on sustainability and resilience; and
• describe the current approach in California (including key tools and products of the California Coastal Sediment Management Workgroup) in applying a systematic methodology to sediment and shoreline management.
The California Regional Assessment provides information to be used in the development of recommendations for improved shoreline and sediment management, and in particular, appropriate levels of federal and non-federal participation in shore protection, and use of a systems approach to sediment management. Furthermore, the information is intended to contribute to ongoing and future shoreline management policy discussions at the national and state levels.
The report examines the physical processes influencing the shoreline with a brief summary of what is known about erosion and accretion on the California shoreline, including sediment budgets, and descriptions of shore protection measures that have been used to date, such as armoring and beach nourishment. Regional and statewide general descriptions of the California coast were included and several case study examples are explored for illustrative purposes.
• Ocean-based tourism and recreation in coastal counties generated $18.4 billion and 384,000 jobs in 2013.
• From 1984 to 2010, the State spent more than $67 million to nourish California’s beaches. The USACE has expended $48 million on nourishment projects since 1990. The estimated total beach nourishment cost in the State since 1984 is at least $115 million.
• In San Diego County alone, shoreline erosion created a 15% loss in beach generated revenue.
• Between $40 million and almost $63 million in potential economic losses associated with the effects of sea level rise in southern California.
• If California’s coastal counties were a country, their GDP would the 12th highest in the world.
The NSMS report on California is a positive step towards a comprehensive assessment and development of plans to build resiliency into state coastal economic development and environmental programs. These plans can promote resiliency within California communities, incorporate protection of critical infrastructure, and assess vulnerable shorelines and risks to people and ecosystems.
To address the complex issues associated with erosion and accretion, the systematic and inclusive approach embodied by the California Coastal Sediment Management Workgroup and local organizations is critical to the current and future health of the California shoreline. Thus, this report provides a critical assessment of not only the coastal changes in the state, but also the social, economic, and environmental implications of shoreline erosion. The data will be used to promote resiliency and help inform responses issues at the federal, state, and local levels.
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