Long-term guide­lines for Outer Banks ero­sion be­ing es­tab­lished

Daily Press - - News - By Jeff Hamp­ton Jeff Hamp­ton, 252-491-5272, jeff.hamp­ton @pi­lo­ton­line.com

BUX­TON, N.C. — The Na­tional Park Ser­vice is set­ting rules on re­plen­ish­ing bat­tered dunes and shrink­ing shore­lines along the Outer Banks.

The new guide­lines would speed up per­mit­ting within the Cape Hat­teras Na­tional Seashore over the next 20 years and set pa­ram­e­ters for projects such as widen­ing beaches and re­build­ing sand bar­ri­ers to ocean over­wash.

Dozens of re­plen­ish­ment projects have taken place over the years, from con­struct­ing the first dunes in the 1930s to build­ing jet­ties and widen­ing beaches.

But they’ve been done on a case-by-case ba­sis, with­out long-term guide­lines in place. The per­mit­ting process is ar­du­ous and routes through mul­ti­ple gov­ern­ment agen­cies.

These changes aim to speed up and smooth out the process, while also adding long-term con­sis­tency, for the swath of coast­line that spans 67 miles from Nags Head to Ocra­coke. Nine vil­lages such as Ro­dan­the, Bux­ton and Hat­teras Vil­lage lie along the park’s beaches.

Once the rules are ap­proved, the end re­sult for Outer Banks beach­go­ers is that the gov­ern­ment will have a bet­ter plan to pro­tect the coast­line while also re­spect­ing the wildlife that call it home.

“We are on a long and very nar­row sand­bar,” Dave Hal­lac, su­per­in­ten­dent of the Na­tional Parks of Eastern North Carolina said dur­ing a public meet

ing about the pro­posed rules Tuesday. “It’s largely been en­gi­neered by hu­mans.”

Hun­dreds of threat­ened sea tur­tles and shore­birds nest on beaches oc­cu­pied at the same time by dozens of an­glers and sun­bathers. Rangers set boundaries around the nests to pro­tect them.

The parks ser­vice is weigh­ing three op­tions for its new rules, though one is to change noth­ing and another is to stop beach re­plen­ish­ment projects al­to­gether, which would make N.C. 12 im­pass­able and dam­age the is­lands’ tourism in­dus­try.

Park of­fi­cials want the third op­tion, which would limit beach re­plen­ish­ment to 6 miles a year and only dur­ing win­ter months when tur­tles and shore­birds are not nest­ing. Ad­di­tional miles would be al­lowed af­ter ma­jor storm dam­age. The park would not have to do an en­vi­ron­men­tal re­view that takes six months or more for

each project and could ap­prove them al­most right away, Hal­lac said. Per­mits would still be re­quired from other agen­cies such as the U.S. Army Corps of En­gi­neers.

Jan Daw­son, owner of the Cape Hat­teras Mo­tel, sup­ports that plan.

She is still clean­ing up af­ter Hur­ri­cane Teddy passed off­shore while a nor’easter and high tides also ar­rived. She had more than 4 feet of sand on her lot.

“It’s not some­thing we haven’t seen be­fore and we are re­silient,” she said. “But do we want to keep do­ing this? No.”

Some of the largest waves on the East Coast pound not far from ocean­front homes. Storms strike the coast here in sum­mer and win­ter. Beaches at Avon and Bux­ton are los­ing about 10 feet a year. Big swells reg­u­larly break through the dunes de­posit­ing sand on N.C. 12 and ocean­front prop­erty.

Oc­ca­sion­ally, storm surge cuts a new in­let from ocean to sound. It can take weeks to re­fill the breach with sand and re­build the road.

Sea level mea­sured at an Ore­gon In­let gauge has risen nearly 9 inches since 1977, ac­cord­ing to the park ser­vice.

Sev­eral sites need beach widen­ing, in­clud­ing Bux­ton, Avon and Frisco. Dunes must be sta­bi­lized in sev­eral places in­clud­ing the north end of Ocra­coke.

The Bux­ton beach was widened along three miles in 2018, but a suc­ces­sion of win­ter storms wiped out much of the work. Dare County plans to widen it again next year.

All of that work is crit­i­cal to the Outer Banks’ tourism in­dus­try. In 2019, 2.6 mil­lion vis­i­tors spent more than $168 mil­lion in com­mu­ni­ties within and near the seashore, ac­cord­ing to park sta­tis­tics. The spend­ing sup­ported 2,422 jobs in the lo­cal area and had a cu­mu­la­tive ben­e­fit to the lo­cal econ­omy of $211 mil­lion.

The park ser­vice is seek­ing public com­ment on the pro­posed guide­lines, a re­quired step be­fore they can be put in place.

Com­ments must be sub­mit­ted by Nov. 2. They can be sent elec­tron­i­cally to ht t ps: // park­plan­ning.nps.gov/CAHASed­i­ment. They can also be mailed to Cape Hat­teras Sed­i­ment Man­age­ment EIS, Su­per­in­ten­dent Cape Hat­teras Na­tional Seashore, 1401 Na­tional Park Drive Man­teo, N.C. 27954.


Huge waves break just off the beach in Bux­ton last year dur­ing one of many storms that strike here, de­stroy­ing dunes and de­posit­ing sand on the high­way.

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