Academic journal article Contemporary Economic Policy

Size Matters: The Economic Value of Beach Erosion and Nourishment in Southern California

Academic journal article Contemporary Economic Policy

Size Matters: The Economic Value of Beach Erosion and Nourishment in Southern California

Article excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION

Beaches are among the most popular outdoor destinations because they offer archetypal tranquility--the repeating white noise of breaking waves, sun-warmed sand and cool breezes, the gentle cry of shorebirds, and the sight arid sounds of other people enjoying the environment. Yet, despite the peaceful appearance of many beaches, they are not static or permanent resources. Just as the footprints along the shore will be wiped clean by the next high tide, the very shape of the beach is subject to dramatic change as currents, wind, and storms consta move sand and rearrange the coastline.

Humans rely on beaches for a number of services--protection of property from waves and high water during storms, as open spaces for recreation, or a place to spread out and enjoy the sun and sea. Yet people do many things which adversely affect beaches, and some things to protect them. Careless beach development and overuse can level dunes and kill the vegeta-tion that helps preserve the shoreline. Increased surface-water runoff from inland development can cause streams to erode their outlets. Building piers, breakwaters, and jetties can change the way storms and currents hit the shore, causing some spots to erode and other spots to accumulate new sand. Natural events, including sea-level rise and severe storms also can reshape beaches--dramatically changing their width and size.

Wide beaches provide venues for various recreational activities, and we show in this paper that many beach users derive benefits from improved beach width and quality. Because beaches attract out-of-area visitors, businesses near the beaches benefit from increased use. Beaches also are an important economic resource for people who live locally, even if these users pay little or nothing for a beach visit. Beaches are enjoyed by residents of California and many visitors to the state. According to the National Survey of Recreation and Environment(1) (NSRE) in 2000. about 14.8 million people participated in beach activities in California. Extrapolating from the survey data used in this paper to the entire state of California suggests that 17.8 million residents visited beaches that year. Local day users enjoy a non-market economic benefit from visiting beaches--a value equal to what they would pay to guarantee that these beaches remain available for their use. These non-markel values can be substantial and have been estimated to be worth as much as $3 billion per year in California alone (Pendleton and Kildow 2006, estimate the value at $2 billion, the southern California Beach Valuation Project estimated that the loss in consumer surplus if all public beaches in Los Angeles and Orange County were closed would be $3 billion, Hanemann ct al. 2004).

Although the attractiveness of wide sandy beaches seems obvious, little is known about the precise economic value of changes in the size of beaches. Huang and Poor (2004) use stated preference methods to examine the value of protecting against beach loss in the states of Maine and New Hampshire. Although they focus on preserving the status quo rather than changing beaches, they find a general dislike by the public for many of the consequences of beach armoring (e.g., building seawalls or sand retention structures such as groins). Landry, Keeler, and Kreisel (2003) examine a Georgia island community using a hedonic model to quantify benefits to property owners and stated preference techniques to determine the benefits of beach preservation and enhancement strategies. They find that, in general, people prefer wider beaches, they do not like armoring strategies, and whereas occasional visitors do not mind retreat strategies, pass holders (frequent visitors who are more likely to live nearby) dislike shoreline retreat. Parsons, Massey, and Tomasi (2000) use revealed preference data to look at beaches in New Jersey and Delaware, using models which account for familiarity and favorites, and consider three categories of beach width. …

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