Coastal Environment Policies

Mason André

One of the biggest environmental reforms occurred in the beginning of the 20th century when during the progressive era. In 1907 the Inland Waterways Commission was established which studied the impact of water transportation on the environment. This was a turn for the country, the industrial revolution was occurring and environmental issues took notice.

Another outstanding moment for the coastal environment and the US was in 1970 when President Nixon consolidated agencies to create the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). This agency regulated pollution levels and enforce federal environmental protection law.

One of the biggest trends that stands out is that most of the policies put in place for coastal environments appear after some crisis takes place. For example, the oil pollution act of 1990 was a result of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska’s Prince William Sound. Another example is Proposition 65 which enables California to have clean and drinkable water. Now, California is known for having a lot of environmental protection, but only after voters decided the conditions were not okay.

You can see that before the 70’s, the only policies were in place to protect human, and control what we drank and ate. The laws were in place for us, but didn’t do anything for the environment. The governments concern did not lie in the earth but in the people. Once the 70’s hit and the US became more aware of the issues that we were facing, policies such as the Marine Mammal Protection Act (1972) and the Endangered Species Act (1973) were created. This was a result of several energy related challenges the US had to face during the 1970’s such as the OPEC Oil Embargo and the construction on the Alaskan Oil pipeline. In 1972 the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act of 1972 (MPRSA), or the ocean dumping act was installed. This allowed officials to regulate the materials going into the bodies of water surrounding the US and also authorized research to study the waters.

President Theodore Roosevelt was a huge contributor to the efforts put forth in environmentalism in the 1900’s. He was the first president to step up and take responsibility for environmental issues and do something about them. Roosevelt created over 200 national monuments and parks and actively pursued water and soil conservation.

Rachel Carson was also a key player in environmental issues in the 20th century. Rachel Carson was a biologist and conservationist that put a lot of attention and effort into the environment during the 30’s-50’s. Rachel researched bioaccumulation and the effects it had on the coastal environment which provided scientists to prevent this in the future.

Environmental achievements did not end in the 70’s. In 1980 Louis Gibbs, an environment activist, created the Citizens’ Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste after learning her sons school was built on toxic wasteland. She authored several books on the effects of toxic waste and it being dumped into waterways.


One development that raises public fear within the coastal community is tourism. It’s common knowledge that bodies of water bring lots of visitors, but residents of these areas are not so keen on the idea. Issues such as water resources, air pollution, noise, solid waste and littering, sewage and physical impacts are all concerns of having too many tourists visit a specific location.

Increasing the number of people in any city increases the amount of waste, the amount of energy being used and creates an environment where large amounts of unused resources seems acceptable, but the impacts prove these tourists are detrimental to the health of the environment. Although there are environmental issues, tourism brings in lots of economic growth and can sustain a community much longer than if there were no tour industry. This brings tension in the debate of whether tourism is beneficial or not for coastal communities.

I believe tourism, in moderation, is beneficial. Yes there’s more energy and waste, but the awareness and education that comes from traveling to such coastal environments outweighs the environmental costs. If a city is bringing in twice the revenue they would without the tourism, they will have more funding for cleaning water, for picking up litter, and keeping up with the demands that the tour industry brings.

Taking a look at a different community, the European Commission states “Coastal and maritime tourism is the largest maritime activity in Europe and employs almost 3.2 million people, generating a total of € 183 billion in gross value added and representing over one third of the maritime economy”

While I understand the challenges associated with tourism, the answer is not less tourists, but more efficient ways to handle tourism so we can enjoy all the wonderful attributes of the coastal environment without harming it in the process.


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