EMERALD ISLE — The monumental task of hand-planting 400,000 to 500,000 pieces of vegetation on newly created dunes on Emerald Isle beaches wrapped up Friday, just in time for Memorial Day weekend.
“They did a phenomenal job, finished in 20 days, planting along 6.4 miles of beach,” said Carteret County Shore Protection Office Manager Greg Rudolph, referring to workers from Florida-based subcontractor EarthBalance.
The crew worked 18 days, taking one day off for inclement weather and one off for a break.
“Basically, they had a crew of about six,” Mr. Rudolph said. “Then the last week they brought in a few more from a project at Oak Island, so they maybe had 10 or 12.”
The contract-specified work end Wednesday, but the company had about 45,000 plants left over, so workers spent Thursday and Friday putting those in gaps among vegetation planted in a separate beach nourishment project last year.
“We directed EarthBalance to use these plants in a zone encompassing Emerald Isle’s Western Regional Access, adjacent RV Parks, the Islander (Resort Hotel), etc.,” Mr. Rudolph said in an email Friday morning. “The plants succumbed to a lot of foot traffic … so these ‘dead zones’ are now being addressed … and they have enough plants to continue working to fill in any gaps westward past the Holiday Travel Park towards [sic] Pebble Beach, Deer Horn Dunes and Ocean Oaks.”
Beach nourishment in this year’s project – phase three of the post-Hurricane Florence nourishment effort – concluded April 26, beating the deadline of April 30 by a few days. Nourishment contractor Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co. of Illinois covered 9.4 miles of Emerald Isle beach in fresh sand.
It cost $36.1 million and totaled more than 2 million cubic yards of sand dredged from the ocean off Atlantic Beach, hauled to Emerald Isle on dredge vessels and discharged to the beach via submerged pipe.
The plants EarthBalance used were mostly sea oats, augmented with bitter panicum and seashore elder, plunked into holes punched with an auger, fertilized and watered with a hydrogel, a substance that holds and slowly releases water. The vegetation is intended to help hold together the new dunes, which provide protection to oceanfront property as hurricane season rapidly approaches. The plants were grown in a greenhouse from seeds and cuttings of plants harvested from Emerald Isle in October, so everything planted was not just native, but local.
“You like to think every project gets better, and in this case, it has,” Mr. Rudolph said, referring to the three phases of the post-Florence project. “Everything, from the nourishment to the planting, was better.”
He and Emerald Isle officials are still urging beachgoers to stay off the dunes, as the small plants need time to stabilize and grow.
In a public service announcement on the town website, planning director Josh Edmondson said, “The public is reminded it is illegal to walk, sit, lay or play on the dunes, and we need your help to spread the message. Disrupting the dunes is harmful to the new plants, and the sand structures that help protect our coastline.”
He also reminded oceanfront property owners they will need to contact the town's planning department to receive the proper permit before installing post-and-rope to mark walkways or put up sand fencing along the new dunes.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email email@example.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.