Monday, September 26, 2022

Surf City to install eco-friendly alternative to combat erosion at Soundside Park

Surf City will install its first living shoreline at Soundside Park with state funding from the N.C. Coastal Federation. (Courtesy/Town of Surf City)

SURF CITY — With assistance from the N.C. Coastal Federation and the Sandbar Oyster Company, the Town of Surf City will be installing its first living shoreline.

The project is a natural alternative to bulkheads and seawalls, made entirely of hard surfaces that don’t absorb wave energy as effectively, meaning the water creates a larger splash when it connects with the surface. As a result, they can cause damage to nearby land and add to erosion issues over time. 

READ MORE: Coastal Federation allocated $2M to install living shorelines

An eco-friendly alternative — and also less costly to repair — are living shorelines, installed in the water. They utilize nature, such as oyster reefs and saltmarsh plants, to protect land from degradation.

The real benefit comes from long-term resiliency efforts that help mitigate rising sea levels, expected to surge along the North Carolina coast 10 to 14 inches over the next 30 years. Over the last century, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports sea-level rises at a rate of 0.34 mm per year along the southeastern coast of N.C. That’s almost 1 foot since 1960.

“Also, the King Tides we’ve been having, over-the-top high tides, combined with strong winds create havoc on our shorelines,” Coastal Federation coastal scientist Dr. Lexia Weaver told Port City Daily in March.

A study from the NOAA reports damaging flooding is expected to intensify and occur 10 times as often by 2050.

It has found shorelines with natural coastal habitats endure less damage and recuperate quicker from severe storms, by protecting structures and marine life simultaneously from flooding events. 

Surf City is planning a living shoreline for a 200-foot stretch at Soundside Park, located off Roland Avenue, right after crossing the Surf City Bridge. Construction is slated to begin Aug. 15 and will take several days to complete. 

The town is receiving 100% state funding to pay for the project. The NC Coastal Federation was allocated $2 million in the state’s November 2021 budget to implement living shorelines and help cover the expense for qualifying towns and property owners. 

The living shoreline will provide stabilization with the use of “soft” elements, such as vegetation or living things, combined with “hard” structures, including rock sills and oyster reefs. Once constructed, the structure attracts oysters, which attach to it and grow to make a natural habitat over time. The rock-like reefs then provide habitat for other marine animals and plants.

According to the Sandbar Oyster Company, it uses its “innovative” oyster catcher design — patented/patent-pending biodegradable hardscape — for stabilization. The Soundside Park shoreline will consist of an oyster reef sill created using two different shapes of its oyster catcher.

Within one to two years after installation, oysters will continue to grow and fill in any empty spaces.

“This will provide an invaluable educational component for our residents and visitors, as well as provide needed erosion control efforts,” town manager Kyle Breuer said in a press release.

During a July 5 town council meeting, Breuer explained the town chose the public park for its first living reef installation to allow residents to see what it could entail for their own properties.

The Coastal Federation offers a cost-sharing program for property owners interested in living shorelines. It covers $55 per linear foot, up to a maximum of $10,000. Living shorelines are typically at least 50 linear feet but can vary by land size.

The federation has been installing living shorelines for over two decades, a concept that originated in northern states, such as Maryland and Virginia. A Coastal Federation member adapted the concept in North Carolina. 

Last year, the nonprofit built 4,554 feet, just under 1 mile, across 30 sites in southeastern North Carolina. This includes 118 feet of shoreline constructed at Topsail Beach, funded by a portion of a 2019 $5 million grant.


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