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What Would Al Gore Do?

Figure 8 houseWhen Al Gore spends time at the North Carolina coast he stays at Figure Eight Island in a 7,000 square foot house voted most likely to fall into the ocean .  A thin stretch of beach separates the house from the rising sea along with a temporary line of sand bags 25 feet away, due for removal May 2008 in compliance with coastal regulations.  Sand bags on the beach are double edged swords, protecting the land side while accelerating erosion on the ocean side.  Owner Parker Overton filed a spirited variance request with the Coastal Resources Commission in February for a March hearing. 

Part of the variance request referred to the passing of SB 599 in 2007 due to be heard in the House 2008 which would allow a terminal groin pilot project, presumed to be destined for a location close to the house.  Among political contributors on Figure Eight Island Parker Overton and his wife are the most generous.  As recently as December 2007 they each contributed $4,000 to the campaign of Marc Basnight.  As it happens the variance wasn’t heard at the March CRC meeting. According to officials “stipulated facts could not be agreed upon prior to the meeting.”

OvertonsOverton is the founder of Overton Sport based in Greenville NC, billed as the the world's largest distributor of water sports products and boating accessories, with catalogs, online sales, brick & mortar stores. Overton is no stranger to the marine environment. In a hearing November 2007 of the NC Coastal Resources Commission he stated :

“that he grew up boating on the Pamlico River. He said that he has owned property on the Pamlico River, in Washington on the water and owns land on Figure Eight Island.”

Contributory negligence, however unfair, is an element of NC law.  I know a man, essentially blinded by laser eye surgery, whose case was denied because the court ruled that, as a retired actuary, he should have understood the concept of risk.  In the variance request Overton stated:

"When we purchased this property in 1995, we were given a CAMA permit allowing us to build a residence and would not have done so if we had been told that we would not be able to take steps to protect our property and residence from destruction".

When your life is built on marine sports and your most famous house guest is the world’s leading exponent on the hazards of rising sea levels and climate change an understanding of the risks of coastal development is implied.

What would Al do?

Figure 8 seen from Topsail

Figure Eight Island as seen from Topsail Island some 4 miles away.

4 Comments


  1. Adam Searing

    June 11, 2008 at 10:27 am

    Al might want to find another house to stay in next time he visits Figure Eight!

  2. old social worker

    June 11, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    If one considers the amount of jet fuel Al burns and the amount of hot air he spews, a McMansion leaning into the ocean looks like his ideal vacation house.

  3. gregflynn

    June 11, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    Al Gore has more than offset his carbon footprint.

  4. gregflynn

    June 12, 2008 at 9:01 am

    I doubt that Al Gore is aware of the end run that well connected people are doing around state environment regulations that protect the North Carolina coastline for all people and not just the wealthy denizens of private gated communities.

    Figure Eight Island is a private island that does not allow direct public access via the bridge that connects it to the island. The only way to use the “public” beach, that part between low and high tide, is to get there by boat. As recently as May 27th a 22 foot boat carrying two men fishing capsized near Rich Inlet, at the north end of the island. One man drowned.

    As long as this story is about groins and sand-bags it will will generate collective snores while our collective coastal protections are eroded by legislative trickery for the benefit of a few wealthy owners. I wrote this about people involved to help it make sense and to shine a light on the manipulation of the legislative process.

    SB 599 was introduced as the “Ocean Isle Beach Shore Protection” act and was gutted to be a generic act which everyone “in the know” understands to be for Figure Eight Island.

    Figure Eight Island has a beach nourishment project in planning that appears to be on hold as they try to get this groin project in place after which nourishment will still be needed. A groin generally reduces erosion on one side and increases erosion and beach disturbances elsewhere, for which reason they are prohibited.

    It is not clear that they actually intend to carry out either the groin or nourishment projects but it has bought time to keep temporary measures, ie sand bags, in place. That time has passed. If Figure Eight Islander were serious about protecting their property they would continue immediately with the beach nourishment project instead of praying for the next Hail Mary pass at the altar of politics.

    In the early 11th century King Canute the Great was a smart and powerful leader of an empire that included England, Denmark, Norway and some of Sweden. One of his strengths was knowing his limitations. When flattering followers deluded themselves that his powers extended to an ability to turn back the tides he had his throne placed at the ocean’s edge where he sat commanding the water to recede to no avail, proving that there are greater powers in this world than men and their leaders.

    Someone needs to ask a leader like Al Gore for advice.

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