Thirty of the nation's 50 states have coastlines on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Great Lakes. These 30 states contain approximately 85% of the nation's population, and about half of this population resides in the coastal zone. Continued population growth is projected in the future, with a greatly increasing demand for beachfront development. At present, there is considerable public concern over coastal erosion, erosion control measures, and land use regulations [National Research Council, 1990].
Beach erosion is a significant and growing national problem. The National Shoreline Study, conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1971, was the first national appraisal of shore erosion problems. Significant erosion was found to occur along 43% of the U.S. shoreline if Alaska is excluded. Other large sections of sandy shoreline are also eroding, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers categorized it as noncritical erosion largely because of the lack of immediate threat to buildings and infrastructure at that time.