An Investment That Pays For Itself

Ron Mizutani
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Wednesday - April 01, 2009
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Erosion at Makalei Beach at Diamond Head

If someone were to tell you they could take $1 from you and turn it into $600, you’d probably ask, “What’s the catch?”

According to the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA), there is no catch, and what people should be asking is, “Where do we sign up?”

The answer is right in front of us.

Hawaii is home to hundreds of miles of pristine coastlines. Our white, sandy beaches are without question one of our most important economic and natural resources. But in order to enjoy this resource, there is a price to pay - the price of maintenance.

You don’t have to look very far to see that our beaches are in constant need of a tune-up. The rapid erosion at Kailua Beach is just one of many examples on Oahu.

“I can’t believe how bad it is,” says Dorothy Sully, a frequent visitor to Kailua Beach. “Something needs to be done or this beach will be gone.”


 

Scientists and engineers across the nation are combating erosion through periodic beach nourishment efforts. In most cases, dredges scoop or suck sand off-shore and deliver it onshore to widen beaches. The effort has been successful from Waikiki Beach to Ocean City, Md., and in most cases worth every penny.

“A 1992 beach renourishment project (in Maryland) paid for itself, more than three times over, by preventing at least $180 million in property damage in just three years,” says Barry Holliday, executive director of the Dredging Contractors of America.

ASBPA officials say the return on investment for beach restoration projects is 600-to-1. For every $1 the federal government spends on restoration projects, $600 is pumped back into the economy.

“I believe that’s not far off, especially in Hawaii,” says Royce Kam, who works and plays at Waikiki Beach. “Just look around and see how many jobs are impacted by a healthy shoreline.”

It’s one reason why scientists believe that investing in our beaches can stimulate the economy. The United States is home to more than 20,000 miles of eroding shoreline, including areas across Hawaii. Take away our beaches and you take away revenue generated from surfing, fishing, boating and so much more.

“From both a scientific and engineering standpoint, it is abundantly clear that beaches are a proven commodity,” says Aram Terchunian, a coastal geologist. “Beach restoration projects mean tax dollars and economic activity. Dollar for dollar, beach restoration is a tremendous economic rejuvenator.”

Scientists believe the return on this type of investment is enormous, especially when you consider that 180 million Americans make about 2 billion visits to our nation’s beaches each year. If you’re like most families, a trip to the beach means a trip to the grocery store for steaks, snacks and drinks. It’s not just business at the beach. It’s business straight to the local economy.

“When we plan a day at the beach, we go all out with food for the grill, poke, chips ... the works,” smiles Kam. “Of course, don’t forget about filling up the propane tank and gas for the truck. It all adds up.”


His story is repeated by residents and visitors each weekend, but wouldn’t without healthy shorelines. But unfortunately, our shorelines can’t do it alone.

“Beaches are America’s favorite vacation playground, and they are also a preferred destination for tourists from around the world,” says Holliday. “The value of these dredging projects is easily measured by our country’s $26 billion trade surplus in tourism.”

“It’s an economic stimulus package that’s ready to go,” adds Terchunian.

But it’s not just tourism dollars. It’s an investment in our children, our future and our own memories. Ultimately, it’s our responsibility to make those investments now, especially with those kinds of returns.

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