The devastation left by Hurricane Sandy has reignited a long-controversial discussion about whether to maintain artificial beaches, especially in light of global climate predictions and diminishing sand reserves.
According to preliminary reports, the New Jersey shoreline experienced severe damage at the hands of Hurricane Sandy, with “enormous quantities of sand [washed] off beaches and into the streets — or even all the way across barrier islands into the bays behind them.” Some areas are already scheduled to have their beaches “topped up” with offshore sand as a remedy for the damage caused by Irene, the last big storm to pass through. However, this form of “beach replenishment” is being criticized by some scientists.
What’s the Big Idea?
Two major issues fuel the criticism: climate change and sand reserves. With rising sea levels, storms may come more often and cause more damage, making some wonder if it’s worth it to even allow buildings to exist close to the coast, much less replenish the beaches there. Also, as one scientist notes, “We know from geological surveys…that offshore sand, high-quality sand, is a highly finite resource” and that excavation and transportation costs are already quite high. However, supporters say that the economic benefits received from tourist-friendly beaches more than outweigh the costs of replenishment.