Threatened Coastlines

Development is taking its toll on America's fragile shores


Living by the sea is the dream of many Americans. But it is also a modern hazard, as Hurricane Hugo so vividly demonstrated in 1989 when it battered South Carolina and caused 21 deaths and $7 billion in damage. Every year America's coasts on average erode 1 to 2 feet, putting lives and property at risk. But coastal geologists say the real problem is not erosion but man's penchant for building at the water's edge, interfering with the sea's natural cycle of ebb and flow. While many states have enacted laws to regulate rampant development along fragile shorelines, they have encountered fierce opposition from private property advocates and homeowners who cherish their piece of the beach -- no matter how tenuous it may be.

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