Environment: Shrinking Shores

Overdevelopment, poor planning and nature take their toll

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That is not likely. "Abandonment is a joke," scoffs Folly Beach Mayor Richard Beck, noting that his island is almost completely developed and that tourism is just too valuable an income source. Indeed, unless it is voluntary, any restriction of land use, even for good environmental reasons, must respect , property rights. Two recent Supreme Court decisions served as timely reminders that local governments have a constitutional responsibility to protect property owners. Even so, those who resist a balanced policy of coastal management, whether they are motivated by greed or by genuine concern for the well-being of coastal communities, will probably lose in the end -- to the sea. Says Coastal Geologist Griggs: "In the long run, everything we do to stop erosion is only temporary." John Tesvich, a Louisiana oysterman, perhaps puts it more feelingly, "The land has shrunk. It looks like a lake out there. My heart sinks to see the land get lost to the sea."

FOOTNOTE: *Since damage lowers the value of an investment, owners can deduct the amount as a capital loss.

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