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Bogue Banks beaches in good shape, no nourishment needed right away

Beach nourishment projects and dune planting projects, like this one in Emerald Isle in spring of this year, have helped keep Bogue Banks beaches in good shape.

Posted on September 6, 2022

Bogue Banks beaches are in good shape, nowhere near erosion levels that would “trigger” the need for beach nourishment.

Nicole Vanderbecke, with the county’s beach engineering firm Moffitt & Nichol, presented the good news about the county’s key economic engine during the  Carteret County Beach Commission’s monthly meeting Monday in Emerald Isle.

Her opinion was based on a March survey of Bogue Banks, Shackleford Banks and Bear Island beaches by Geodynamics of Newport. It’s done every spring, in part so the county will know how much sand, if any, is lost during hurricanes in the summer and fall. After a major storm, there usually is another survey, and the loss numbers can form the basis for a request for money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

For example, after devastating Hurricane Florence in September 2018, the county and Bogue Banks beach towns got money from FEMA and used it for beach nourishment projects that covered the whole island from 2019 to 2021 at a cost of close to $60 million, almost all of it from FEMA.

Vanderbecke told the beach commission the three projects are the main reason Bogue Banks beaches are in such good condition, as there is always erosion. Most of the erosion this year, she believes, came not from hurricanes – 2021 was a light season – but from nor’easters and other storms that created big, strong waves during the winter and early spring.

And, she said, there is typically some accretion of the beaches during spring and summer because of the prevailing southwest wind. She believes there has likely been some accretion this year since the survey was done in March.

Hurricane Florence had taken away about 3.6 million cubic yards, and the three nourishment projects added about 5 million.

Vanderbecke said there were, as always, some erosion hot spots – places where more sand was lost – on Bogue Banks between last year’s survey and the March 2022 survey. Atlantic Beach always has a higher erosion rate than most of Bogue Banks, and that was the case this year, too. That’s one reason Atlantic Beach for decades has had an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to get beach nourishment about every three years.

The other hot spots include eastern Emerald Isle, although Vanderbecke said that was alleviated somewhat by a new nourishment strategy in that area during the last project there in 2020.

The best news, she said, is that survey showed that most of the sand lost in the past year is not far offshore, so it’s still “in the system” and could return to the beach, given proper conditions. In some cases, she noted, hurricanes result in accretion of the beaches.

Elsewhere, she said, erosion along Shackleford Banks continued the long-term trend, with some erosion on the eastern half but major erosion along the western end of the island. Some of that area is already under water.

Bear Island in Onslow County, across Bogue Inlet from Emerald Isle, also experienced erosion between the last survey and this year’s but also had some accretion on its eastern end.

As for Bogue Inlet itself, Vanderbecke said it continued to migrate west this year, toward the beach at The Point in Emerald Isle.

In 2005, when very expensive homes at The Point were seriously threatened by erosion, Emerald Isle and the state of North Carolina paid $11.4 million to relocate Bogue Inlet Channel farther from the rapidly eroding western tip of Bogue Banks.

The project involved a dike that blocked the existing channel so water would have to flow into the new channel that was dredged. The 710,000 cubic yards of dredged sand was piped to shore as nourishment for 4.5 miles of beach in western Emerald Isle.

Experts at the time thought they might need to repeat the process in 15 years, which would have been 2020. That wasn’t the case, so the move has “outlived” expectation.

But Vanderbecke told commissioners the migrating inlet has moved far enough east in recent years that it might soon be time to at least “start the conversation” about relocating it again.

Vanderbecke also noted that the dunes along the Bogue Banks beaches – the last line of defense for oceanfront homes and businesses during storms – are in good shape, as is most of the vegetation planted on them after the 2019, 2020 and 2021 nourishment projects.

Beach commissioners suggested the 2023 Geodynamics survey included a more detailed look at the volume and location of the dunes.

Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.


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