Erosion Threatens America's Coasts

By Cynthia Kirk

This is Bill White with the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

Many Americans desire to live in homes near coastal areas. More than three-thousand people move to coastal areas every day.

But experts say one-fourth of the buildings along America's coastal areas may be damaged or destroyed by erosion within sixty years. That is about eighty-six-thousand homes and other buildings. Coastal erosion is a loss of land that is made worse by powerful ocean storms.

Officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced the findings in a report to Congress. The report was done by the H. John Heinz Center for Science, Economics and Environment. Experts studied the erosion threat to structures within one-hundred-fifty meters of the nation's coastal areas.

The report estimated that almost three-hundred-fifty-thousand structures are within one-hundred-fifty meters of the nation's coasts. The report studied all the ocean coastlines and those along America's five Great Lakes. However, it said the erosion problem was especially severe on the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

Weather experts say that the nation appears to be entering a period of increased ocean storm activity. They say more storms would increase the threat of coastal erosion. However, stronger buildings and homes built on tall posts have improved the ability to survive storms and reduce erosion.

The cost of erosion damage to property owners is expected to average about five-hundred million dollars a year. And many structures are not covered under the federal flood protection program. The program provides coverage to homeowners in coastal areas who might not have been able to get private insurance.

The report calls for a major new effort to map coastal erosion, improve building rules and identify high-risk areas. It also suggests that federal officials consider approving requirements to limit building in coastal areas.

However, a group that represents coastal communities criticized the government report. The American Coastal Coalition says the report it is a government effort to use federal insurance programs to urge people to move away from the coasts.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Bill White.

Voice of America Special English