Flood Insurance

Feds Subsidize Rebuilding on Risky Coastlines

Cost of risk externalized for builders

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Contractors with the Army Corps of Engineers last month finished pumping more than 1.8 million cubic yards of sand onto the beach in Ocean City, N.J., which had been damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

Using a combination of Sandy aid and funds already earmarked for adding sand to beaches, the federal government picked up $14 million of the roughly $18 million tab. And it's not the first time Washington has paid to dredge up sand and pump it onto Ocean City's beaches.

The federal government also helped pay to restore Ocean City's beaches in 2010,according to data compiled by Western Carolina University's Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines. And in 2004. And in 2000.

In total, Washington has spent at least $40 million on nine separate efforts to help restore the city's beaches over the last two decades, according to the data, adding more than 12 million cubic yards of sand.

Beaches are essential to the economies of places like Ocean City. But critics say paying to restore beaches year after year is one of a number of ways the government subsidizes less-than-smart development and rebuilding along coasts that are increasingly vulnerable to flooding and hurricane damage, even as it has discouraged coastal development in other ways.