A Review of the Economic Importance, Engineering Techniques and Federal Management Strategies Related to Coastal Stabilization in the United States

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Coastal Zone Management

First Advisor

Steffen Schmidt

Second Advisor

Richard E. Spieler


Beaches are one of the most dynamic environments on earth. They provide storm surge protection, flood control, recreational activities, habitat for a variety of plants and animals and also provide an important source of income for economies around the country through tourism. Impacts on beaches from natural and anthropogenic sources of erosion are becoming more prevalent as sea levels rise and urban coastal areas grow in population. As a result, engineered erosion control techniques were developed to mitigate for beach erosion and protect coastal development. Early forms of these techniques included the use of engineered hard structures such as seawalls, jetties and groins to armor the coast line but they often have unintended impacts or side effects. Beach nourishments, which are increasingly employed around the United States, are considered a more environmentally friendly method by some and are now the preferred method of choice for engineered coastal protection. There is much debate as to whether erosion control techniques, including beach nourishments, are an effective mitigation tool for beach erosion or if tactics such as human population retreat are a better solution. Due to the large number of people that live and recreate near beaches and the economies that rely on the tourism generated earnings, retreat is not a viable option. Coastal erosion techniques such as beach nourishments are needed to provide protection against coastal inundation and maintain economically important recreational beaches while balancing environmental concerns.

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