October 23, 2012
Contact: Ken or Kate Gooderham, ASBPA executive directors -- (239) 489-2616
Harry Simmons, ASBPA president -- (910) 200-7867
Vote for beaches?
Election season is a great time to put beaches front and center -- and perhaps a chance to help shape coastal policy and politics.
For most communities, managing a coastline takes equal parts of science and politics -- science to research and develop solutions that are suitable and sustainable, politics to put them in place and keep them there. With Election Day approaching, it's a good time to discuss how you'll know if your candidate supports sound beach and coastal management.
Of course, the first and best way to find that out is to ask them. If they have a coherent plan for coastal management -- or support one that's already in place -- you have your answer. Conversely, if they do not support any kind of coastal management, their position is also clear. (If the latter is the case, be sure to engage them in how they propose to address natural forces at work, such as erosion, storm waves, etc. You may get a chance to change their minds.)
If they don't have a prepared response to the question, consider offering them a hand to develop a position. It's the best way to influence their stance, and can help you develop a coastal connection to a candidate that can be useful should they get elected to office.
If they have a plan (or if you're helping them draft one), keep these aspects in mind:
1) Is it based in real and sustainable science? Gimmicks and gadgets may sound appealing, but the bottom line is that most eroding beaches need sand -- and if the coastal system is starved enough to result in critical erosion, sand will need to be brought back into the system to get the beach back into equilibrium.
2) Is it designed using sound engineering? The movement of sand by winds and waves is fairly predictable, and most viable beach projects will be able to predict the coastal outcome using modeling and engineering under "normal" conditions. Engineered projects can also anticipate those expected movements and reflect them in the initial design.
3) Is it appropriately funded to succeed? It's not just about having enough money, it's having the money when you need it -- even more critical as budgets dwindle and competition for funds becomes more fierce. Support for a sustainable funding source that draws its revenues from a beach's popularity or the value it adds to community is prudent, as is relying on an array of funding sources for a more stable revenue flow.
4) Is the political support possible (or already in place) to make it a success? This is particularly crucial for funding, since sustainable support equals sustainable funding for the coast. Trying to develop a new funding source takes political support; trying to protect an existing one takes political will. If either is lacking, your coastal management program could be in trouble.
5) Is it flexible, able to respond to changing conditions? A good coastal program can't rely on just one tool in the beach toolbox, nor can it be prepared to address only one aspect of changing coastal needs. Can it easily adapt to an unexpected coastal crisis, an anticipated beachfront evolution or even the gradual shifts that occur in communities over time?
Obviously, the office a candidate is seeking will help refine the issues that should be part of their beach policy. A local officeholder usually faces more hands-on coastal concerns about specific projects, politics or plans, whereas a state or federal official may focus more on big-picture issues such as funding, resource management and permitting.
Regardless of the office, it's important that coastal advocates keep raising the issue of maintaining healthy beaches during elections. It's important that the coastal constituency is heard whenever possible -- and today's city councilor could be tomorrow's state senator or U.S. Representative. Plus, the best chance you have to get officeholders to listen to your concerns is when they're asking for your vote -- don't let that opportunity go to waste.
Finally, when you ask a candidate where he or she stands on beaches and they reply: "You have beaches around here?"... well, you have your work cut out for you.
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ABOUT ASBPA: Founded in 1926, the ASBPA promotes the integration of science, policies and actions that maintain, protect and enhance the coasts of America. For more information on ASBPA, go to www.asbpa.org, facebook or www.twitter.com/asbpa.