On Shifting Sands

Coastal Development Drains Tax Dollars and Aquatic Ecosystems

On the Isle of Palms, a beach community near Charleston, South Carolina, sit rows of expensive new homes. The Isle is one of many ‘barrier” islands” along the nation’s coastlines—islands which absorb the brunt of winds and waves when hurricanes hit. Not surprisingly, in 1989, when Hurricane Hugo swept into South Carolina, dozens of homes on the Isle were destroyed, leaving behind only rubble. Yet within a couple of years, property owners rebuilt structures in the same vulnerable places. Such practices along our nation’s coastlines have placed enormous demands on our beaches, estuaries and saltmarshes.