Emerald Isle, N.C.

Nov.18, 2021


As beach nourishment costs increase and the associated dredging operations are repeated annually, is now the time to reconsider the construction of groins along the Crystal Coast?

Erosion continues to deplete usable coastline despite what has become an almost yearly beach nourishment effort. Hurricanes and associated weather patterns impact the shoreline on a seasonal basis, further exacerbating coastal erosion.

As weather patterns change and the effects of climate change become more prevalent, weather patterns are likely to worsen. Hurricanes will become stronger, leading to more significant damage to Crystal Coast beaches.

In the 2019 Carteret County News-Times article “Beach Erosion Proves Costly,” Brad Rich wrote, “Emerald Isle had lost about 2.2 million cubic yards of sand. Indian Beach/Salter Path lost about 445,000 cubic yards, Pine Knoll Shores lost 576,000, and Atlantic Beach lost more than 400,000.

According to the Carteret County Shore Protection Office, over the past 20 years, beach nourishment efforts have cost the county $48 million. The total costs, including local, state, and federal funds, have exceeded $172 million.

Beach nourishment requires unsightly near-annual dredging, closes down portions of the beach for long durations, and potentially damages the existing ecosystem due to the necessary heavy equipment and large amounts of sand deposited to extend the existing beach. Any delays in beach nourishment can negatively impact tourist-generated revenue; closed beachfront areas make for a dismal vacation.

The proposed alternative, groins, are durable structures that provide a permanent alternative to beach nourishment projects. Their design potentially alleviates natural beach erosion and erosion caused by storms such as Hurricane Florence.

Ocean Isle’s groin construction project can provide a blueprint for the Crystal Coast. Construction costs are not projected to exceed $15 million, with federal funding covering most expenses.

In 2014, coastalreview.org reported an Army Corps of Engineers review of a Carteret County draft beach management plan that included groin construction would cost more than $10 million. Given the costs of beach nourishment, groin construction costs warrant careful consideration as a viable, cost-effective alternative.

A more comprehensive plan to address beach erosion is needed. Groins provide a lower-cost alternative to the multi-phased, never-ending beach nourishment efforts. A new study to determine the size, location, and environmental impact is the first step in legitimizing groins as a tool to protect the coastline. A different approach is needed to ensure the long-term protection and enjoyment of the Crystal Coast.


(3) comments

the secret life of man

There's alot of groins for rent.Some more expensive than others.


I am familiar with how the beach renourishment process goes. Most of the projects are done by the US Army Corps of Engineers who have contacts that are bidded on by the dredging companies. Once the contract is awarded, the company hauls in their equipment and begin operations. Now let’s clear up the shutting down of the beaches. By USACE policy, only 1,000 feet of beach can be closed at a time. This 1,000ft area is the work area and is usually fenced off by orange construction fence. This area is off limits to everyone except the workers. There are a lot of large machinery moving around and it is unsafe for the public to be passing through. The companies can not shut down the entire beach. Secondly, USACE inspectors as well as company safety officials closely monitor to ensure all safety and environmental measures are taken, ie during turtle nesting season, biologist and special trained personnel monitor any signs of turtles or nest in the area. If one is spotted, operations are halted until the nest have been relocated by those people. I understand that the long pipeline on the beach and equipment moving 24/7 is an eyesore and a nuisance but ramps are set at 100ft apart so that the public can still access the beach. As far as harming or having an environmental impact on the area and harming the local income, the sand that is being pumped back on the beach is the same sand that was removed by erosion and storms. It is remove from borrow sites that have been collecting offshore or it may come from the channel that is constantly filling up making it hazardous for commercial ships from safely getting to the port. Recycling the sand is no different than recycling paper, plastic, used motor oil, metal, etc. plus the sand that is being placed on the beach offers storm protection for homes, larger area for nesting birds and turtles as well as making larger areas to accommodate more tourist therefore helping stimulate the local economy. In the end, everyone benefits.

Carteret Native 01

Groins don't prevent erosion as much as they move it to your neighbor's property. And as sea level rises, groins will be neither durable or permanent. Anyone who knows the ocean will know that nothing is permanent. Ocean Isle's groin will provide a false sense of security in the face of six feet of sea level rise. It will be fun to see how much disruption it brings to the littoral sediments load. I do agree that we should stop the dredging and beach nourishment. It's a complete waste of taxpayer dollars.

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