Ocean City Beach looking north and the Everglades

Economic Implications of Shoreline Change
Erosion and accretion can be damaging to coastal economies, but appropriate shoreline management approaches help to mitigate these costs. For example, the beneficial use of dredged material can protect coastal investments while using funds efficiently.

Photo of Birds On

National Shoreline Management Study

Economic Implications of Shoreline Change

How do erosion and accretion affect economies? These shoreline changes can have a wide range of impacts on residential and commercial investments at the coast.

  • Erosion of beachfront property damages homes and businesses.
  • Accretion in shipping channels can prevent or delay boats from reaching harbors and ports.
  • Erosion of recreational beaches results in a loss of revenue for tourist destinations.
  • Loss of wetlands (from either erosion or too much accretion) can leave upland regions vulnerable to waves and storm surges.

The National Shoreline Management Study (NSMS) is assessing the economic impacts of shoreline change around the coasts of the United States. The economics portions of the National Assessment will consist of data on population, employment, wages, gross domestic product (GDP) and other economic factors for coastal watershed and shore-adjacent counties. The assessment will also address how these figures have changed over the previous two decades and how they vary between regions.

Knowing the economic impacts of shoreline change can help the Corps and its partners to develop policies that protect coastal assets and investments. For example, dredging a navigation channel can keep shipping moving smoothly, and using the dredged sediment to nourish a nearby wetland can protect upland homes and businesses from storm damage.


The Value of the Coast

  • NSMS researchers decided that an early task for the study should be the identification of pertinent literature relating to the economic impacts of erosion. In 2004 the NSMS published Economics of the Shoreline: An Annotated Bibliography for the National Shoreline Management Study (pdf, 1.80 MB). This bibliography reviews 100 of the more than 255 articles and documents identified during the literature search. An online listing of the relevant sources was also compiled.
  • In July 2002, the NSMS held a workshop titled Addressing Economic Considerations in Shoreline Protection, which aimed to identify issues and questions to be tackled by the study. This conference provided a forum to discuss economic issues relating to shoreline change, and participants concluded that the NSMS should be used as an opportunity to review and improve shoreline management goals, and relevant planning tools and criteria, to reflect economic, environmental and social consequences of shoreline change.
  • As the NSMS got underway, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requested that the Corps examine how the benefits of shore protection are shared between beach areas and the rest of the Nation. The study, entitled "The Distribution of Shore Protection Benefits, A Preliminary Examination," addressed how the economic benefits of a beach nourishment project could be allocated between a particular coastal county (or counties) and other areas. It analyzed a hypothetical shore protection project in three different scenarios to determine if benefits to the local area could result in increased cost-sharing by the non-Federal project sponsor.