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.