An Assessment of the Effectiveness and Usage of the Surfrider Foundation Annual State of the Beach Report
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Every year since 2000, the Surfrider Foundation has released the State of the Beach Report. This annual report uses a suite of coastal health indicators to rate coastal state management information availability and status. After eight years, the Surfrider Foundation wanted to know how well the State of the Beach Report was measuring coastal health and to what extent it was utilized in creating coastal policy. I used three separate metrics to assess the State of the Beach Report. First, using the Handbook for measuring the progress and outcomes of Integrated Coastal and Ocean Management (UNESCO, 2006), I created a hierarchy of those many aspects of beach health of interest to the Surfrider Foundation. By coding the various indicators used in the State of the Beach Report I was able to determine that the report directly addressed 32 of the 34 subcategories and thus is an appropriate measure of coastal health. Secondly, I analyzed data from each of the previous eight State of the Beach Reports to determine where changes in indicator grades signified a trend. Once these trends were identified I identified the cause of each change. The majority of these changes were the result of states increasing the amount and availability of information related to coastal zone issues. The BEACH Act, and its associated positive changes in the Water Quality indicator, was the only specific piece of legislation or set of regulations I was able to identify. Finally, I surveyed nearly 200 coastal zone managers across the country to determine the visibility and influence of the State of the Beach Report in coastal zone management. I was able to determine that the Report has high visibility within the coastal management community and has a similar level of influence on policy formation as other Surfrider Foundation methods. Surprisingly, there is relatively little usage and awareness of the online version of the report. This analysis displays the value of the State of the Beach Report. With certain additions and changes, the report should continue to be one of the most comprehensive metrics for assessing coastal health in the United States.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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