Living on the coast is often a lose-lose situation — beaches erode, and big storms take out pricey homes — but that hasn’t seemed to quench the thirst for development along the Florida shoreline. Rather than discouraging beachfront development to protect property owners and the environment alike, state laws and practices promote such development and leave taxpayers to foot the bill for rebuilding eroded beaches. Since 1978, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has approved almost 5,000 permits to build on land subject to erosion, and denied just 52. Similar development and spending patterns — coastal construction approved by the state followed by taxpayer-subsidized beach rebuilding — appear in virtually every state with a coastline. In the past 79 years, beach replenishment along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts has cost the nation about $3.6 billion in 2002 dollars, or about $1 million per mile of open shore in those regions.
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