Should The Feds Help Save Galveston's Beaches?

Maintaining Texas beaches is a costly proposition. We're not talking about litter; we mean erosion.

But a new study by the director of research and development for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says we better get on the job.

Writing for the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association, which is more scientifically oriented than its lobbying-type name might suggest, James Houston says America is killing its tourism trade by ignoring its beaches. And foreign countries are kicking our ass.

Travel and tourism is a gigantic cog in the U.S. economic engine, Houston writes. But, he adds, "perhaps Americans do not appreciate the importance of tourism to the national economy because 98 percent of the 1.4 million tourism-related businesses in the U.S. are classified as small business, and this makes the industry extremely fragmented."

Some facts from the new report:

Coastal states like Texas receive 85 percent of all tourist-related revenues in the U.S.

U.S. beaches contribute $320 billion annually to the economy, 25 times that of national parks; the federal contribution to maintaining beaches is 4 percent of the annual budget for national parks.

"Germany has spent almost five times what the U.S. did to protect its coasts over the past 40 years -- for a shoreline that's less than five percent the length of the U.S. coast. Japan s budget for shore protection in a single year topped what the U.S. spent in the past 40 years -- and Spain, a major competitor for beach tourism, has spent more than that in a five-year plan to restore and renew its coastline."

So maybe we shouldn't be depending on the ever-stingy Legislature in Austin to help protect Galveston and South Padre. Get the feds to start ponying up, and make those suckers in Nebraska and Montana pay their fair share.

-- Richard Connelly

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