With news reports indicating that lawmakers have reached a backroom deal to expand the number of so-called “terminal groins” allowed along the North Carolina coast, the frequently conservative editorial page of the Jacksonville Daily News has reprinted an editorial this morning from the Wilmington Star News that does a great job of shredding the whole idea.

“A terminal groin is a big wall or hardened structure stretching out into the ocean, usually perpendicular to the coastline. Groins are built to change the effects of beach erosion. Jetties, on the other hand, are built so a channel to the ocean will stay open for navigation.

The trouble is — as almost every geologist and oceanographer will tell you — groins don’t really work. They stop or slow erosion in the immediate vicinity, but worsen erosion farther down the beach by halting the natural flow of sand.

Beach sand migrates and trying to stop its natural course is like old King Canute trying to keep the tide from coming in. It’s folly — potentially expensive folly.

Senior homeowners on Social Security and inland residents could wind up being taxed for “beach nourishment” to protect pricey oceanfront real estate. And what may help one property owner surely will end up badly for someone down the beach.

For three decades, North Carolina had a good rule barring any form of beach hardening. In 2011, the General Assembly, in its wisdom, chose to water down that rule allowing four “test” groins.

Not content to see how the tests perform, the N.C. Senate is ready to wash away all precaution.”

And, sadly, it appears the House is going along with this as well. Read the entire editorial by clicking here.


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. Read More


Not that the powers that be in Raleigh appear terribly concerned about what the majority of people living along the North Carolina coast think, but another coastal community has spoken up loudly and clearly against Governor Pat McCrory’s wrongheaded decision to proceed with offshore oil exploration. This is from the lead article in this morning’s Wilmington Star News:

“Thunderous applause followed a Wilmington City Council decision Tuesday to oppose oil drilling off the North Carolina coast.

Attendees against offshore drilling — some waving “Don’t drill N.C.” signs — filled seats, lined the walls and overflowed into an upstairs area at the council chambers Tuesday evening. The crowd was so large that about 100 people had to wait outside the meeting after the room hit capacity.

The resolution approved unanimously by the council, presented by councilman Charlie Rivenbark, opposes both offshore drilling and seismic testing to find oil and natural gas….

According to [the environmental group] Oceana, 15 North Carolina municipalities — including Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach and Topsail Beach — have passed resolutions voicing concerns about seismic testing or offshore drilling.”

Meanwhile, the good people at the North Carolina Coastal Federation, who have spoken out loudly and clearly about the huge dangers of offshore drilling will be hosting another forum on the subject in New Bern next Friday. This from the online description:

“What does the North Carolina coast look like today – economically, environmentally and socially? How could this change with the introduction of the oil and gas industry? This forum is intended to delve into the economic truths, environmental implications, and actual effects on coastal communities. Speakers include researchers, regulators, elected officials and coastal residents, from the Gulf of Mexico to Currituck Sound.”

Click here to learn more and register. The deadline is this Friday the 24th.

And if you’d like to get the full scoop on the move to turn the North Carolina coast into a version of Louisiana’s from the comfort of your own computer, click here to watch a presentation from earlier this year by Sierra Weaver of the Southern Environmental Law center at an NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon.


Sea-level rise 2In the aftermath of the troubling shark attacks that have plagued North Carolina beaches this summer, there’s been a natural tendency to worry about the economic impact — both short and long-term — on the beach tourism economy. Bloody, weekly attacks by wild animals are not exactly what you call good publicity.

As Ned Barnett of Raleigh’s News & Observer explained over the weekend in an essay reviewing coastal expert Orrin Pilkey’s new book, “The Last Beach,” however, there’s a much bigger threat looming to the beach economy. It’s called humans.

Here’s Barnett:

“Beaches move, and with rising sea levels they are moving faster. People try to slow or halt the process by dredging up sand or erecting imposing seawalls, but those are destructive and doomed efforts. To save the beaches, we must let beaches go where and how they want.

That humans should harmonize with beaches rather than try to control them is the theme ‘The Last Beach,’ a new book by Orrin H. Pilkey and J. Andrew G. Cooper. The book looks at the embattled state of beaches around the world where foolish beachfront construction, Sisyphean beach re-nourishment efforts and pollution from sewage, garbage and oil are ruining one of the world’s idyllic wonders, the broad stretches of sand where the land meets the sea.

‘Can we imagine a world without beaches?’ the authors ask. ‘As inconceivable as it might seem, such a loss is a distinct possibility, thanks to the way we abuse the shoreline at this time of rising sea level.’”

Pilkey’s message is the same one that scientist Rob Young delivered a couple years back at an N.C. Policy Watch Crucial Conversation: Humans may be able to stave off destruction for a few more years with their dredging, beach “re-nourishment,” and sea walls, but the price will be huge. Basically, by fighting nature, we’re just making things worse.

The bottom line: It’s understandable that beachfront property owners love their little pieces of paradise and want to freeze them in time time, but such acts are not only futile; they’re helping to assure that future generations will be denied the joys of beach/ocean tourism. And that’s one very extreme and costly way to cut down on the number of shark attacks.


Sea-level rise 2For anyone who cares about the North Carolina coast, there is a “must read” in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer by one of the state’s top experts on coastal geology.

As Dr. Rob Young explains in an essay entitled “That ‘more realistic’ sea-level report? Not good news for NC,” the notion that scientists have backed off of the troubling predictions that had developers in a lather a few years back is nonsense. Here’s Young:

“There seems to be a grand misimpression that a new sea-level rise report released by the Science Panel of the Coastal Resources Commission is different from a report released in 2010.

Here’s the shocking news: They’re essentially the same. The main difference is that the Science Panel first was asked to look 90 years down the road. The new report looks 30 years down the road. Interestingly enough, the first report includes a projection for 30 years that essentially matches the 30-year projection from the new report.

Any suggestion that the political establishment somehow chastened scientists into producing a ‘more realistic’ report is nonsense. The new report uses the same data sources, plus a few new ones, and the same approach. It even presents the predicted acceleration of sea level rise toward the middle of the century. (Full disclosure, I was an author on the first report but stepped down from the panel before the second report was completed.)

Yes, it is true that the new report includes different projections for the northern and southern North Carolina coast because northeastern North Carolina is subsiding. But the first report clearly acknowledged this difference. Why did the first report choose to use the higher northern Outer Banks rate for its SLR projection? Because the Science Panel was directed by the CRC to report only one number in that report. Had the CRC requested multiple rates, it would have gotten them.

The real lesson from this exercise is that five years of additional data haven’t changed the basic forecasts.”

As Young goes on to explain, the implications of these latest findings are hard and troubling but undeniable and the same as the ones he explained a couple of years ago in an NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation: Unless North Carolina wants to waste vast sums of money and actually make things worse in many places, we need a plan for managed retreat in some communities along the coast. Read More