ONSLOW COUNTY — With a shoreline that recedes as much as 100 feet a year, North Topsail Beach is in trouble.
The northernmost section of the 22-mile barrier island that includes Onslow and Pender counties has been clobbered by hurricanes and is under the constant threat of erosion.
To combat its eroding shoreline, the Town of North Topsail Beach is requesting a new master management plan the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) would administer, if approved.
Paying for the plan presents a different hurdle. Town officials are considering a local tax increase, weighing the options of whether oceanfront homeowners should be taxed more heavily than their inbound neighbors or even if a town or island-wide occupancy tax increase is feasible to help cover the cost of the federal project.
The current beach management work plan may not provide adequate protection for the north end over the next 20 years, according to project plans: “[T]he extreme severity of the erosional threat necessitates the need for immediate action . . .”
In 2013, nearly 1 mile of dredged sand placed on the northend washed away within a year. The next year the town was approved for emergency protections and installed sandbags bordering the inlet. To date, New River Inlet and the northern oceanfront is bordered by a 0.7-mile sandbag revetment — a short-term solution combatting an inevitable problem.
Now, the town is proposing to build a 2,021 foot-long terminal groin along the inlet.
Contractors would also dredge material from the inlet — a federally maintained navigation channel that leads to U.S. Marine Corps base Camp Lejeune — to beef up 1 mile of the northern shoreline.
Similar to a jetty, terminal groins are built perpendicular to the shoreline, designed to ward off inbound waves and harsh currents from reaching the beachfront it’s protecting.
In 2011, a 30-year ban on hard oceanfront structures was repealed to allow specific exceptions for permitted terminal groins. This project is sure to attract the attention of environmental advocates, who point to these structures’ proven record of worsening erosion further down the shoreline. As the North Carolina Coastal Federation puts it, “[E]rosion is only a problem when we put buildings and roads in the way.”
Thursday, USACE will host a public meeting to go over plans for the project.
Who: USACE, North Topsail Beach
What: Public scoping meeting, New River Inlet Management Master Plan
Where: Facebook Live
When: Thursday, March 25, 6 p.m.
Why: To protect the North Topsail Beach shoreline
Send tips and comments to Johanna Ferebee Still at firstname.lastname@example.org