Published September 10, 2009
Talk about money running through your fingers.
It's no surprise that many Americans -- who see tax dollars spent for waste and ineffective programs -- feel as though their dollars are literally being tossed out to sea.
But FOX News found one program that does just that.
Sand replenishment projects are allotted millions of tax dollars annually to "rejuvenate" beaches, often just steps from multimillion-dollar beach homes and luxury hotels.
From New England to Florida, North Carolina to California, coastal communities lobby Congress for money to buff up their beaches, even though many of these coastal states have set aside state funds for these projects.
Congress dumps up to $100 million in federally subsidized sand onto American beaches every year -- only to have it washed away by waves.
Taxpayers "replenished" one beach in Cape May, N.J., 10 times between 1962 and 1995 at a cost of $25 million. In nearby Ocean City, N.J., the beach was "replenished" 22 times between 1952 and 1995 for $83 million.
Another beach project in Encinitas, Calif., cost taxpayers $14 million.
Encinitas mayor Maggie Houlihan says it's worth it for locals and tourism, which brings in $43 million a year. "This is another part of maintaining an absolutely critical asset and the reason most of us move to the coast in the first place," she says.
"When you really think about how important the beach is to people's quality of life, it is money well spent."
For years, in an effort to save hundreds of millions of tax dollars, the Congressional Budget Office has recommended eliminating the "Beach Nourishment" program. The CBO projects a $285 million savings over five years if Congress eliminates federal funding for beach replenishment projects.
Critics say the projects are not only economically wasteful, but they pose a negative environmental impact. In one 2004 project in Port St. Lucie, Fla., newly placed sand turned as hard as concrete when it dried, trapping sea turtle hatchlings beneath the surface. The sand had to be entirely removed just two years later.
In May 2007 Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) tried to insert an amendment that would have ended the projects by diverting the money to levee and infrastructure needs. The Senate defeated his amendment by a 77-12 vote.