Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina would allow more terminal groins – jetties that protect barrier islands from erosion – if state senators get their way in the state budget.
The move would be controversial, with some advocates saying the structures are costly and environmentally harmful. But senators insist that protecting barrier islands would save money in the long run.
"We have discussed that," Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, said Wednesday.
Rabon said that the four terminal groin permits the legislature approved in 2013 have already been issued or are in the process of being issued. But other areas, he said, want to take advantage of the barriers, despite the fact that none of the permitted barriers have been built.
Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, said the item was included as part of a larger package of proposals dealing with dredging. Those proposals include setting aside 1 percent of the statewide gas tax to dredge inlets, a move that would raise $11 million, and eschewing a proposal to do away with a registration fee for certain large saltwater boats.
"There's a lot of thought it could save a lot of money in the long run," Brown said of allowing for more groins.
Preventing erosion, he said, would be cheaper than re-nourishment projects that add sand back to beaches.
But groin opponents say the projects are expensive and don't save money. Rather, they argue, it merely shifts the same problem to a different coastal area.
"I have objected to it," said Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson. "It's bad finances – it's wildly expensive – and it's bad environmental policy," he said.
McGrady said he also objected because the measure was a non-budget policy issue that had not been part of earlier drafts of the spending document.
Both Brown and McGrady said the terminal groin proposal was not final. Rather, it was a point of negotiations for the chairmen of the full appropriations committees.
"Adding a provision like this in closed-door budget negotiations keeps the public in the dark about important decisions that are being made about public resources -- much less giving the public a say. Such a drastic change in policy affecting our coast should be fully and openly debated," said Molly Diggins, state director for Sierra Club. "Four years ago, legislators reached a compromise that would allow four groins to be built as pilot projects in North Carolina. No projects have been built, and so the impacts of a policy that would literally change the shape of our state are still unknown."