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
What could make the difference between a utility making it through an event like Hurricane Florence with relatively few impacts, and one that has major, lasting problems?
Imagine two utilities, just over the county line from one another, with the same assets that are exactly the same age, located at the same elevations. Will their ability to provide service after a storm be exactly the same? What type of things might they do before the storm hits to improve the outcome? Continue reading
As of 2014, NOAA estimated that about 40 percent of the US population lives in a county on the coast and these coastal counties are responsible for 56 million jobs. As a nation, we have developed heavily along the coastlines, building large and valuable assets on property that may erode. As communities along the southeastern coastline have experienced and can likely attest to, there are very few viable options for slowing coastal erosion that do not either cause more erosion downdrift or damage to coastal ecosystems. To date, most communities have found beach nourishment to be the most viable option. So what is beach nourishment and how do we pay for it? Read on for answers to these questions and more: Continue reading
83 percent of Puerto Ricans remain without power three weeks after Hurricane Maria hit the island. The goal is for 25 percent of customers to regain power by the end of October, but it could be months before the territory’s grid is fully operational again. Meanwhile, 36 percent of the island still does not have water service. Since energy is required to treat and deliver water, presumably the lack of power is standing in the way of getting some of those water systems back online. (Water, of course, is also needed to generate energy, but that’s a topic for another time.) Continue reading