This aerial shows Sugarloaf Island, a small, undeveloped island off downtown Morehead City that is a popular spot for recreational boaters and others. The island has experienced rapid erosion in recent years, particularly on the eastern end, a problem the city hopes to address by applying for a Building Resilient Infrastructures and Community grant through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. (News-Times photo)

MOREHEAD CITY - Details concerning Sugarloaf Island's restoration were shared earlier in August during a commissioners' meeting in Morehead City.

Separated from the town's waterfront by Harbor Channel, the barrier island was purchased for conservation near the turn of the century for $500,000. Since then, Sugarloaf's seaward facings have been rapidly eroding with every passing storm.

In July, a partnership was formed among the town, N.C. Coastal Federation, Florida-based aquatic restoration specialist Sea & Shoreline and Currituck County-based Quible & Associates to protect the island by designing effective shoreline stabilization methods.

During a virtual presentation, environmental scientist Brian Rubino of Quible and Associates explained the island has experienced a significant loss of land mass and vegetation in recent years.

"It's basically just fragmenting and coming apart, Rubino said. "Sand and portions of the island are eroding and going into the federal channel. We're just not getting it back."

Getting into the specifics of the restoration plan, Rubino shared that a wave attenuation system will be installed on the ocean-facing side of the island. This system will consist of two rows of hollow, concrete pyramids that each have a 9-foot base and are 7 feet tall.

After being planted around the island, the devices will extend more than a foot out of the water with the intention of breaking wave energy before it reaches the shoreline, Rubino said.

Gaps in the installation will be provided to allow boats to still navigate to and from the island. The concrete composing the devices will be considered at 5,000 PSI and reinforced with mesh that will not rust or become corrosive.

Construction for the pyramids would take place locally in Morehead City, with the Port Authority providing a staging site for deployment.

As the town has not yet secured the estimated $8 million required to fully complete the project, Rubino explained progress will have to be made incrementally.

"We need to do this in phases or implement sections at a time," Rubino said. "The idea is to have a living, breathing document that we can use to work on building and modify as we go."

The estimated cost for the first phase of the restoration is $1,826,000 and will be covered by grants and federal funding, according to Rubino. Construction is expected to begin later this year.

In addition to the wave attenuation system, restoration efforts will also include oyster reef recreation along the shoreline and the passive recapturing of windborne sand using biodegradable technology.

Plans have also been discussed to plant seagrass to stabilize sediment around the island and create habitats for fish.

"As everyone knows, the island is good protection for the city," Rubino said. "It's a buffer, it's a form protector. So, we need to make sure we are protecting the island from ongoing erosion by restoring the ecological functions which are going away."

(5) comments

David Collins

And what type of mesh does not corrode , other than plastic . Gosh , that will be a pretty sight . To spend all that money only to have those pesky zombie glaciers in Greenland melt and cover things up . Oh well , the madness continues .

tom collins

rock jettys on beach first tho🫠.


Folks love to complicate things "passive recapturing of windborne sand using biodegradable technology". I suspect that is called snow fence among common folk. Meanwhile rip rap might well be more cost effective and shoreline stabilizing then " wave attenuators"

Hire a circus ( consultants) get expensive clowns.


The old living breathing document, the kind that gains weight as it grows older.

the secret life of man

Whom ever is financing this project should ask theirself why?

Welcome to the discussion.

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