Bulkheads and seawalls are meant to prevent erosion, but their impact on the coast can be devastating. Ironically, these hard structures can accelerate erosion in adjacent areas. And over time they eliminate coastal salt marsh—along with the natural storm buffer and pollution filter it provides. There is serious cause for concern going forward: as landowners increasingly turn to bank stabilization in the face of sea level rise, this will have unintended negative consequences for coastal businesses, recreation, and tourism.
The U.S. Corps of Engineers is only exacerbating the situation. The Corps is effectively rubber stamping these projects—some as massive as 500 feet long—by authorizing them under a lax general permit process meant to ease through projects with “minimal individual and cumulative adverse effects.” By 2017, an estimated 17,500 structures will have been authorized under this Nationwide Permit 13 loophole.
SELC is taking on this widespread abuse of the law in federal court, seeking to subject these potentially damaging projects to a thorough review under the Clean Water Act.