Feb. 20 - With continued federal
funding of beach renourishment projects looking tenuous at best,
Brunswick County beach officials want to take another look at what
other beach-building options exist.
While members of the Brunswick Beaches Consortium hope Congress
can reverse the White House's plan to cut funding to most
beach-boosting projects, officials Thursday said allowing soft or
temporary hardened beachfront structures could be a way for North
Carolina's coastal communities to help themselves.
"It can't hurt to take a look at the technology, another
opportunity for us to see what's out there," said consortium
chairman and Caswell Beach Mayor Harry Simmons.
But the N.C. Division of Coastal Management has a long history of
frowning upon hardened structures, such as groins, along the state's
Acting Director Charles Jones said the thinking behind the ban is
that hardened structures protect or build up one section of beach by
catching sand intended for adjacent areas, thereby simply relocating
-- and not solving -- erosion problems.
About the only hardened structures regularly allowed by the state
are sandbags, but only as a temporary measure until a permanent
solution -- such as a renourished beach -- is found.
"We think the law is clear and designed to be clear about what is
and isn't allowed along our beaches," Mr. Jones said.
But with President Bush calling for a dramatic policy shift in
how the federal government views beach projects, officials said
every granule of beach sand is seen as critical.
"This is the biggest setback I've seen since I've gotten involved
in this," Mr. Simmons said, "and it's going to take a lot of work to
get over it."
Mr. Simmons, who also is president of the American Shore and
Beach Preservation Association, said he's been working on beach
issues since the late 1990s.
Only four North Carolina communities -- Wrightsville, Carolina
and Kure Beaches in New Hanover County and Ocean Isle Beach in
Brunswick County -- are on the federal list for periodic sand
But almost all of the state's other coastal communities,
including those in Pender, Brunswick, Carteret and Dare counties,
are clamoring to get on the 50-year-cycle of guaranteed beach
There could, however, be more immediate problems for the coastal
Along with proposing to shift most renourishment cost from
federal to local sources, President Bush also has cut most
beach-related spending -- including preproject feasibility and
survey studies -- out of his proposed fiscal year 2005 budget.
Dean Mitchell, chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre,
D-N.C., said Congress is mobilizing to restore the funding,
While constructing groins won't replace the impact of a beach
renourishment project, the local officials said such steps could
offer short-term help.
David Nash, coastal management expert with the N.C. Cooperative
Extension Service, said he saw several displays at a recent Florida
conference that he thought offered promise.
One involved a soft groin field, made up of the same material as
in sand fences, which protrude from the beach into the ocean. The
"passive" groins would be removed to prevent conflicts during sea
turtle nesting season or the busy warm-weather tourist months.
Another idea involved reef balls dropped just offshore that would
break the wave's energy, thereby dampening its erosive impact on the
The consortium, which is made up of officials from the county and
Brunswick's six beach towns, decided to seek more information from
the engineering companies and possibly invite them to make
Mr. Simmons said Coastal Management has allowed the testing of
small-scale projects before, but that there haven't been many
pitched in recent years.
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© 2004, Star-News, Wilmington, N.C. Distributed by Knight