Monday, June 2, 2008

Stabilization the Hard Way

In the Charlotte Observer, Rob Young and Andrew Coburn (both from the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina) have an op-ed piece criticizing requests for a jetty at Figure Eight Island on the NC coast. There is a new NC Senate bill that, if passed, would allow a pilot project aimed at stabilizing Rich inlet

They state:
Any shore-perpendicular structure interrupts the flow of sand alongshore, causing erosion on the downdrift side. In the case of the proposed structure at Figure 8 Island, it acts like a jetty, blocking the sand moving across Rich Inlet and preventing it from reaching Figure 8 Island. This will predictably increase the rate of erosion further down on the island. The proposed structure may protect a few houses near the inlet, but it will shift the erosion threat to additional homes of neighbors down island.The structure will not reduce the need for beach nourishment, as suggested by some advocates. Our data indicate that projects like those referenced by supporters of the bill have required a total of 150 million cubic yards of sand at a cost of $730 million to stabilize nearby shoreline. Constant, costly nourishment will still be required.

It will be interesting to see if this bill is passed. North Carolina has a long history of rejecting hard stabilization projects. Figure Eight Island represents a very elite group of land owners. Do they have the political capital to get this type of project passed? It would definitely differ from the current management strategy.

Personally, I am skeptical management strategies which utilize hard stabilization structures to protect personal property. These structures alter the coastal sediment transport processes, often damaging shorelines in other locations. Are these types of structures really in the public interest or are they in the best interest of a small group of property owners? Who benefits and who incurs the cost?

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