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Value to the Nation

Coasts: Economic Impact

Fifty-four percent of Americans live within 50 miles of a coast, according to 2000 U.S. Census data. Over the next 25 years the population of such coastal states as California, Texas and Florida is expected to grow by more than 36 percent.

Americans are drawn to coastal areas in part by the tremendous economic opportunities presented by industries such as tourism, shipping, and commercial fishing. The economies of these areas, though, are vulnerable to weather and the environment. Along the East and Gulf coasts alone erosion, flooding, hurricanes and winter storms threaten more than $3 trillion in infrastructure adjacent to shorelines each year.

The Corps works to reduce damages to shorefront development caused by shore erosion, hurricanes, and abnormal tidal/lake flooding by undertaking a variety of shore protection projects.

As we implement these projects we look for the solutions that are the most economical, environmentally sound and socially acceptable. In some cases, this will involve hard structures such as breakwaters, revetments and seawalls. In other cases, a preferable approach is beach fill, i.e. the placement of enough sand along the beach to act as a buffer during storms to protect infrastructure and property. Storm waves move the sand offshore, creating bars of sand that in turn cause waves to break further offshore and provide less threat to property. Such nourishment projects are undertaken at the request of local authorities.

To date we have completed more than 70 shore protection projects and an additional 80 are underway. A study conducted after Hurricane Fran found that areas protected by Corps projects sustained considerably less property damage due to erosion than areas that were not protected. In addition to the economic benefits, such projects often provide habitat protection and renewal.

Through our disaster preparedness and response program the Corps also helps businesses get back on their feet quickly when hurricanes and other natural disaster strike the coasts, thus reducing economic losses.