Figure Eight Island wants to have your cake and eat it too. While pursuing a terminal groin injury on the North Carolina coast, full steam ahead, the Islanders have been slow paddling a beach renourishment project that might scuttle the groin proposal if implemented too fast according to coastal observers.
Last year a Figure Eight Island/ Rich Inlet project was described in the Federal Register 07-848, 2/26/2007and listed on the Army Corps of Engineers website under Expired Public Notices dated 3/30/2007 as Corps Action ID# 2006-41158-065
Intent To Prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Development of an Inlet Management Plan That Includes the Repositioning and Realignment of the Main Ebb Channel of Rich Inlet and To Use the Material To Nourish Figure Eight Island, North of Wilmington, New Hanover County, NC
A public hearing was held March 1st 2007 in Wilmington and written comments were received until March 29th, 2007. According to the Army Corps of Engineers not much has occurred since:
The consultants are in the fact finding mode for the project based on direction from the Project Delivery Team. The preliminary draft of the EIS document will probably not be released until ’09.
The sense of urgency that propelled an end run by the NC Senate around coastal regulations prohibiting groins would evaporate if legislators knew that Figure Eight Island was actively engaged in beach renourishment. Therein lies the rub. Coastal regulations allow sandbag protection of threatened structures for up to five years as long as there is an active beach renourishment project but, there is no definition of “active.”
Sandbagging is a temporary measure, protecting several Figure Eight houses, that actually increases beach erosion in front of the sandbags, hence the need for active beach renourishment to complement it. In fact marine charts show a steep drop in the sea floor immediately in front of the area being sandbagged. Indeed one irony of the terminal groin at Fort Macon being used as an example is that beach renourishment is still required and that without it the groin would be a failure. Click to see the shifting sands of Rich Inlet at Figure Eight Island over time.
New construction of houses requires setbacks of 30 times the erosion rate or a minimum of 60 feet. All new structures over 5,000 square feet in area require setbacks of 60 times the erosion rate or a minimum of 120 feet. A current rules change proposal would actually toughen this requirement. There are over 50 houses on Figure Eight Island that exceed 5,000 in area. One of those houses was the scene of the recent controversial private party attended by members of the 21st Century Transportation Committee, a possible violation of open meetings laws.
One spirited defense of Committee members I heard since was that the party was attended by 150 movers and shakers, moving and shaking to flamenco music, and that the chance of 3 members being in the same place at the same time discussing state business was remote. Comments made the next day at the official meeting in Wilmington exposed that fallacy. One thing is sure: Figure Eight Island is pulling out all the stops to privately facilitate public protection of private property while the public and neighboring property owners are left in Rich Inlet without a paddle.