Tales of the Coast
Sharing the Coast


Living on the Coast

When the first colonists arrived on American shores, they needed harbors for their ships and land to build homes. The coastal region provided ports to conduct shipping and trade, as well as fishing grounds and adjacent land for farms and villages.

The Atlantic coast remained the entry point for immigrants for many years, and as the population grew in the 19th century, coastal cities expanded to accommodate the influx of people.

Oceangoing trade likewise grew in importance along the Gulf and Pacific coasts as the American population settled across the continent. Navigation became a central economic activity in places such as Texas, Louisiana, and California, while eastern cities including New York, Boston, and Baltimore developed into major metropolises.

Over time, a growing retiree population began to seek homes near the coast because of the climate. The desire of many people to live near the coast, as well as the continuing economic opportunities present in the coastal zone, have led to extensive development of coastal areas and the need to protect lives and property from waves, storms, and erosion.


Responding to Growth

As the coastal population grew throughout the country, safety and environmental issues developed in response. For example, a hurricane struck Galveston, Texas, in 1900, killing over 6,000 people. The city then built a 5,360-meter seawall to protect the population. The city itself was also elevated several meters by pumping sand from Galveston Bay onto the beach behind the seawall, and a connecting seawall was constructed to protect the port and military reservation at Fort Crockett.

Development along the Atlantic coast frequently interrupted natural sediment transport. When a series of storms battered the New Jersey shore in the early 20th century, the resulting storm damage and increased erosion became extremely problematic.

The Corps responded to these types of coastal problems with storm protection measures and erosion control strategies. These methods have included hard structures, such as breakwaters and seawalls, as well as soft structural methods including beach nourishment.

The protection of lives and property throughout the coastal zones of the U.S. has grown in importance as the coastal population has continually increased. The Corps utilizes scientific research and regional solutions to manage storm protection, erosion control, and related objectives.


Sustainable Management

Managing sediment sustainably can help coastal regions to withstand erosion. Beach nourishment is a soft structural method to mitigate damage from erosion.

Preventing Erosion

Erosion was not recognized as a significant coastal issue until storms in the 20th century inflicted damage on increasingly developed areas. Private individuals' attempts to combat erosion along the Jersey shore in the early 20th century aggravated the problem and showed that a coordinated response was needed.