Lawmakers press Obama to use stimulus for beach building

Coastal-state lawmakers are battling to keep beach rebuilding projects eligible for economic stimulus funding.

Thirty House and Senate lawmakers urged President Obama to fund the coastal projects after hearing that the White House Office of Management and Budget was yanking beach projects from the Army Corps of Engineers' stimulus list.

"If this is accurate, it is a continuation of a faulty Bush Administration policy that did not fund construction starts or any new feasibility studies for shore protection," they wrote. "Beach renourishment projects are an effective way to help our economy recover. It will create thousands of good paying jobs and help protect and promote tourism economies in coastal areas."

Signing the letter were longtime beach-project advocates like Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Thomas Carper (D-Del.) and Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.).

An OMB spokesman said no decision has been made on beach-nourishment funding.


The lawmakers cited a 2002 study commissioned by OMB that found a single beach project can create nearly 2,000 full-time jobs. They also said the projects are vital to protecting communities against hurricanes and other strong coastal storms.

"In a time when you are trying to meet the challenges of global climate change, you surely don't want to be undercutting the very important coastal economic engines that are out there by shortchanging them on a very important resource," said Harry Simmons, president of the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association.

"We are very hopeful that the Obama administration will understand, like recent, previous administrations have not, that science backs up what we're talking about here. Science and technology provide mechanisms for doing beach restoration in a way that is both economically and environmentally positive."

Simmons suggested that pulling the projects was a staff-level OMB decision that went unnoticed -- until now. "We're making an effort today to raise awareness with senior White House folks," he said.

Scott Hardaway, a coastal geologist at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, said there is an ongoing need for beach renourishment funding to mitigate natural hazards and enhance recreation.

"In the Chesapeake [Bay], people are putting beaches out for shore protection," Hardaway said. "But because they're often private property or military facilities or things like that that aren't necessarily recreational, small localities don't want to keep putting sand out there."

Hardaway cited Yorktown, Va., as an example of a community that has successfully used beach renourishment to generate economic growth. "They spent 10 years putting the beach together and totally revitalized their waterfront economy," he said. "They have a stable beach because of breakwater and shore protection during storms."

"Traditionally, tourism and people on beaches is pretty much a stimulus for the local if not state and federal economy," he said. "It's been shown to be economically beneficial if people ... spend money on hotels and cottages and go to the beach."

With economic recovery in mind, Pallone and other lawmakers are pushing to fund local projects. The Army Corps received $4.6 billion for water projects, about $2 billion of which is slated for construction.

Pallone has pinpointed five "shovel-ready" shore protection and dredging projects along the New Jersey shore that he says should be eligible for funding, including beach erosion efforts from Sandy Hook to Manasquan and hurricane and storm protection at Port Monmouth.

Beach restoration projects are a key part of the Army Corps' $61 billion construction backlog. Pallone's projects alone would cost the corps tens of millions of dollars. Other coastal states -- notably, Florida and North and South Carolina -- have a host of beach renourishment projects in line for funding.

Click here to view the letter.

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