Emerald Isle, N.C.
TO THE EDITOR:
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.