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E-M:/ Fwd: America's Coasts at Risk

Enviro-Mich message from Roger Kuhlman <rokuhlman@yahoo.com>

Population growth and development in nation's coastal
areas are pretty bad now as detailed in the story
"America's coasts at risk" produced below. Yet by 2050
the United States' population will have grown by an
additional 110 to 150 million people and many of these
people will be jamming themselves in these same
coastal areas. Almost all this additional population
growth is fueled by immigration so we can stop if we
wish. How many environmentalists are eager to live in
an America of 425 million people?

Forwarded Story below:
America's coasts at risk
By Larry Wheeler

More disasters of Hurricane Katrina-proportions are a
certainty because the United States has no policy to
control growth in danger zones at the water's edge.

In a single generation, land along the nation's
fragile coasts has been gobbled up, concentrating
wealth at the shore, threatening the environment
and putting at risk millions of people and property
worth billions of dollars.

A three-month Gannett News Service examination found:

Already crowded retirement havens like Palm Beach have
packed hundreds of thousands of newcomers into condos
and homes overlooking the water.

About 23 percent of the nation's estuaries do not meet
state and federal clean-water standards for swimming,
fishing or supporting marine species.

Pollution-related closings and swimming advisories at
U.S. beaches hit an all-time high in 2004.

The National Flood Insurance Program is $18 billion in
debt and lacks the ability to repay the money it
borrowed from the U.S. Treasury to cover property
losses from hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The communities around the Great Lakes - America's
freshwater coast - still struggle with industrial
pollution as they face continuing cleanup costs and
the beginnings of revitalization.

In many seashore towns, commercial fishing and
shipbuilding industries have been replaced by
tourism-driven economies and lower wages.

Demand for waterfront property has driven home prices
so high that workers who staff the shops, restaurants,
schools and police departments can't
afford to live nearby.

"If we kick this down the street, the crisis five
years from now will be irreversible," said James
Watkins, a retired Navy admiral who was chairman
of the 2004 U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy.

"We better get our act together," Watkins said.

Population growth
The number of Americans living near the shore
increased by 23.6 million between 1980 and 2005,
according to a Gannett News Service analysis of
population trends in counties nearest to the Atlantic
and Pacific oceans, the Gulf of Mexico and the Great

If runaway land consumption and relentless growth in
automobile use continue unchecked, many healthy shore
communities could face sharp declines over the
next 25 years, according to Dana Beach, director of
the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and an
authority on coastal sprawl.

Beach authored a report for the Pew Oceans Commission
that concluded many coastal watersheds may trip from
healthy to damaged over the next two decades unless
coastal communities adopt growth policies that slow
land consumption and minimize polluted runoff from
impervious surfaces.

''Part of the dilemma is that there is vast ignorance
across the country about ecology,'' Beach said. "When
we modify watersheds (with roads and buildings) we are
changing the physical attributes, the biological
attributes of the water bodies embedded in those

Estuaries and bays
Most coastal communities recognize their bays and
estuaries are in severe decline.

The 3,000-square-mile Gulf of Mexico ''dead zone'' off
the Texas-Louisiana coast is well-known. Aquatic life
there has perished. Spawning has halted.

Texas officials are trying to prevent further loss of
habitat by limiting development along the 367-mile
coast through state and federal coastal and
wetland protection programs, according to the state's
Center for Policy Studies and Environmental Defense.

Hazardous bacterial contamination caused more than
20,000 closings and health advisory days at beaches
across the country in 2004, according to the
Natural Resources Defense Council most recent report.

That's the most since the environmental group began
tracking 15 years ago, said Nancy Stoner, director of
council's Clean Water Project. Some of the increase is
due to greater monitoring.

In 2005, Gulf Coast beaches from Texas to Florida were
hit with dangerous algae blooms and fouled by fish
kills. The algae blooms have forced local
governments to post ''No Swimming'' signs while dead
fish have sullied the beaches.

Patchwork of programs
The federal government has a patchwork of regulations
and agencies that focus on pollution, flood control,
the environment and growth patterns.

Some federal efforts, like the National Flood
Insurance Program and beach restoration projects run
by the Army Corps of Engineers, contribute to 
the growth of waterfront communities.

The value of property covered by the flood program is
$555 billion, more than five times what it was 25
years ago. It generates about $2 billion in annual
revenues, mostly from premium payments.

Hurricane Katrina demonstrated how a single disaster
can overwhelm the flood program.

The federal government's lead agency on ocean and
coastal issues now offers programs to help shore
communities learn about the natural disasters 
that threaten their communities so they can make
smarter decisions about growth.

However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration's budget has remained relatively flat
since 2000, limiting the reach of its small teams
of coastal specialists. The agency's budget for the
current year is $3.86 billion, down 4 percent from

Nevertheless, NOAA has teamed up with experts at the
Environmental Protection Agency to address the

''Our role is to provide coastal communities with the
best information possible so they can make informed
decisions about where and how to grow,'' said Tim
Torma, a manager of the environmental agency's Smart
Growth Program.

Pricing workers out
But many beach communities are now playgrounds for the
wealthy while the working class is pushed out.

Karen Krafft, a single mother with two children, is

She can barely make ends meet living in Nags Head,
N.C., on the annual salary of $25,000 she makes as a
credit counselor. Her summer weekends are spent
cleaning vacation homes to make more money.

Krafft's story is not unusual, said Charles Colgan,
chief economist for NOAA's National Ocean Economics
Program. Large job losses in traditional ocean
industries like shipbuilding, offshore energy
production and commercial fishing have been offset by
the growth in tourism and recreation, Colgan said.

Before Katrina, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama had
seen the nation's largest percent gains in coastal
tourism and recreation employment.

However, average annual wages in these sectors
($16,321) were less than half the average U.S. wage

Others who have the financial means are reluctant to
leave paradise even after repeated assaults from
dangerous hurricanes.

"It's just a wonderful place to be," said Lee
Shrewsbury, a Nashville, Tenn., businessman who owns a
house on Pensacola Beach that was battered but
not destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

Solutions await action
In its final report, the U.S. Commission on Ocean
Policy made more than 200 recommendations to highlight
coastal issues and coordinate 11 
Cabinet-level departments and four independent
agencies that oversee some portion of the nation's
ocean and coastal policy.

The ambitious agenda has received little attention
from the White House or Congress. President Bush
partially followed one recommendation and formed a
Cabinet-level "Committee on Ocean Policy." The panel
mostly serves as a clearinghouse for information on
existing programs.

Copyright 2006 - Tallahassee Democrat

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