Commentary

Senate advances yet another proposal to undermine the long-term health of the NC coast

As has been explained on multiple occasions by a wide variety of experts, there are a couple of basic rules in play when in it comes to understanding the present and future of the North Carolina coastline.

Rule #1 is that the sandy beaches that run for hundreds of miles along our coast are in a constant state of evolution. They ebb and flow and are moving all the time.

Rule #2 is that no one can change Rule #1.

Oh sure, people will try to build “groins” and other “hardened structures” in an effort to get around Rule #1, but experience shows that all that does is make things worse in a lot of places. If you doubt this, visit some of the beaches of other states along the eastern seaboard who have tried to control nature in this way and then watched as the erosion has only worsened in numerous areas.

Unfortunately, people never seem to remember these rules. Hence, stories like this one from this morning’s Coastal Review Online:

RALEIGH – A provision in the latest version of the state budget still in the works would lift the cap on the number of terminal groins allowed on the N.C. coast.

Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret, confirmed Wednesday that the provision had been added by the Senate and is still in negotiations.

“We really do need to do something for Oregon Inlet to keep that sand from falling in the channel and having to spend $8 million to dredge it out,” she said, adding that removing the cap is the fiscally responsible approach.

In 2011, the General Assembly repealed a 30-year-old ban on hardened structures and allowed up to four “test” terminal groins to be built in North Carolina. Four permit applications for construction of a new terminal groin have been submitted to the federal U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ district office: Figure Eight Island, Ocean Isle Beach, Holden Beach and Bald Head Island.

McElraft said her preference would be to allow an additional three or four more terminal groins rather than remove the cap altogether. She said the provision came about during negotiations regarding a continuous funding source for inlet dredging and the continued shoaling of Oregon Inlet.

She said the environmental approval process would ensure the construction would be done responsibly.

“It takes a long time to get those permits,” McElraft said. “The permitting process is very arduous. We make them jump through lots of hoops to prove it’s not going to hurt the environment. They’re not seawalls, it’s just a way for these islands to protect themselves.”

The N.C. chapter of the Sierra Club is against the provision.

“We would oppose it both on a transparency and taxpayer basis and on an environmental basis,” said N.C. Sierra Club State Director Molly Diggins.

The bottom line: State lawmakers appear poised to make another disastrous decision to appease a handful of wealth property owners that will greatly endanger a priceless public resource. In other words, it’s business as usual on Jones Street.

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