Beach Mansion Bailouts in NC
February 28 2011 | Coastal Preservation,
by Mark Rauscher
Legislature should reject beach mansion bailouts in N.C.
From John Hood, president of the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, and Todd Miller, executive director of the N.C. Coastal Federation, a non-profit dedicated to protecting the N.C. coast:
Our country's economic system is based on the belief that the free market is a lot smarter than any government program.
If you have a good idea and you think it will make money, you are welcome and encouraged to make a go of it.
But if your idea fails, you're not supposed to ask the government to bail you out.
That can be hard medicine to take, but it is the only way to prevent people from making more bad decisions and asking the government to bail them out too.
That's why taxpayers ought to be skeptical about a bill, Senate Bill 10, that is likely to come up in the N.C. Senate this week.
For years, our state has banned expensive structures on our beaches called groins. They are like jetties - big, usually built out of rock and on the beach for decades.
The folks who want to repeal the ban say groins are needed to protect private homes from erosion. Scientists and environmentalists say groins don't work and will hurt habitat and other parts of the environment, and could cause increased erosion on down-drift private property.
But everyone agrees groins are expensive. A state study put the price tag of building a groin at as much as $10.8 million. Regular maintenance and monitoring can cost as much as $2.25 million per year.
And for what? To protect a small number of investors - people who bought homes built on sand.
It's hard not to feel sympathy for folks who are trying to beat back the sea to save their beachfront homes. But it should not be the taxpayers' responsibility to bail them out.
But that is what a groin is - a multimillion-dollar bailout. Repealing the ban on groins will shift responsibility for a private sector economic decision - buying a home in a high-value but potentially risky area like the beachfront - to the public sector.
Think about it: What will happen if beachfront homeowners and builders know that the government can build a groin to protect their home in the event the sands start shifting the wrong way? You got it - they will keep building homes where they don't belong. And they will keep coming back to taxpayers to bail them out.
That is exactly what has happened in New Jersey, where the coastline is crowded with groins and other hard structures. Not surprisingly New Jersey also has one of the biggest shore-line "protection" budgets in the country - more than $25 million annually.
Taxpayers already pay millions to protect beachfront property. According to the N.C. Division of Water Resources, taxpayers have paid $85.9 million in local, state and federal funds to move sand on to N.C. beaches over the past 10 years - mostly to protect private property owners. We don't need to add to that bill by building groins, which also require regular beach "renourishment."
As the legislature debates the cost of groins, we hope the new Republican majorities in the legislature will see groins for what they are: a beach mansion bailout funded - now or in the future - with our tax dollars.
Choice comment from the site: "After 25 years of one of the most successful beach protection (and taxpayer protection) coastal management plans in any ocenfront state, no Democratic majority has successfully passed a bill to gut this plan, benefit the few at the expense of the many, and have the taxpayers pay for it...until this fleabitten dog of a bill. Even with the previous dominance of prominant and oft-maligned "down east" legislators such as Mark Basnight, our state's Democrats - those alleged "wasters of taxpayer money" - saw how wrong allowing groins and other "hardened" structures was from both an environmental and an economic standpoint. Sadly, it has taken a Republican majority to advance this bill to destroy our coastline and fleece the taxpayers. In fact, this represents a cornerstone of the "New Republican Agenda", which is a shame, really, considering that these "New Republicans" ran on the platform of not wasting tax dollars.
The bill does not explitly prohibit tax dollars from being used to build or maintain these groins, it does not establish enforceable standards for what would constitute "negative impacts", it does allow not one, not two, but three groins per inlet, and it does stand in opposition to the findings of just about every scientific expert on hydrology, geology, and shoreline management over the past 25 years.
Of course, these Republicans don't consider handing out tax dollars to their cronies and specia-interest buddies to be "wasting" those tax dollars; no, these Republicans see those tax dollars as important "gifts" to those who financed their campaigns.
That's not waste...that's theft.