Every year, North Carolina coasts are a destination for tens of thousands of tourists and locals. But how often do visitors to NC’s beaches think about the strategies to keep beaches pristine? Every year, coastal erosion, a natural process exacerbated by factors like coastal development and climate change, eats away at the wide beaches that attract so many visitors.
What is Beach Nourishment?
Coastal erosion is the process by which local sea level rise, strong wave action, and coastal flooding wear down sands along the coast. Coastal communities adapt to these threats with shoreline stabilization measures. Shoreline stabilization is performed with the use of soft structures and hard structures. Historically, coastal municipalities have fought erosion with the use of hard structures. These solutions include rock, concrete, and steel to build sea walls, sills, and breakwaters. Soft structures are natural, and can include the use of fabrics, beach dewatering systems, sand bags, re-vegetation, and beach nourishment.
In 2003, the NC General Assembly banned hard structures in coastal erosion management, so the majority of coastal municipalities in North Carolina now rely on soft structures, specifically beach nourishment, to stabilize their shorelines. Beach nourishment is the process of adding large amounts of sand or sediment to the beach in order to resist erosion and increase the width of the beach. Sand is typically dredged from another location; usually, from the offshore portion of the site being nourished. Historically, beach nourishment projects have been performed on a town-by-town basis. Evidence suggests that towns tend to make isolated decisions about beach nourishment that do not account for their neighbors. Continue reading