Local News

Sandbags No Longer to Hold Back Ocean Along N.C. Coast

Posted January 17, 2008

— A state decision to enforce a coastal regulation requires property owners along the North Carolina coast to remove sandbags from land threatened by the creeping Atlantic Ocean.

State officials argued that the implementation of the regulation only honored the intent for sandbags to be temporary guardians against the Atlantic. But homeowners said the loss of the protection of sandbags will ensure the destruction of their homes, many of which are retirement investments.

"This is going to be catastrophic for the homeowners, for the state, for everybody," said Yogi Harper, the owner of both a beach house protected by sandbags and a business that installs them.

Harper said his company runs a marathon race against Mother Nature, and he complained that the state's decision to change its rules now is short-sighted.

"It's like running the Daytona 500," Harper said. "Everybody lines up at the beginning, and they run 450 miles in forward. Then they put it in reverse and run the last 50 in reverse."

The state, however, passed the regulation in part due to public opinion about sandbags, said Mike Lopazanski, policy analysis manager in the state Division of Coastal Management.

"The commission started to receive some complaints from the public that they were unsightly, there were these massive walls," Lopazanski said. "That's when they really nailed down the temporary nature of the sandbags."

Owners may need to remove sandbags from around 100 homes in Dare County this spring, state officials said.

"The commission feels enough time has passed, that it's time to enforce the rules as they are written," Lopazanski said.

Sandbagged houses will need to be moved or they will most likely be lost to the sea. That's the case at the Riggins' Condo complex in Kure Beach, where beach re-nourishment is not an option due to an environmental issue.

Bob Rickavaugh said he's struggling to save his beach house in Nags Head. In 2001, the state granted him a temporary permit to stack sandbags in front of his house until the beach could be rebuilt.

Voters turned down funding beach re-nourishment, however, and he must remove the sandbags from Thursday, per the state's regulation.

"I've owned this since 1989," Rickavaugh said. "When I bought it, there was a road in front and 30 feet of dune in front of that. Now there is nothing in front of it, except the sandbags protecting the house."

He is among many homeowners who use the rental income from these beach houses to fund their retirement, Rickavaugh said.

"When I bought this back in '89, I thought it was a good investment property," he said. "That is a good part of my retirement. I depend on that house."

State inspectors will visit each site to determine where sandbags may stay and which will go. Rickavaugh said he and other homeowners might fight to keep their sandbags.

"I think it should be a class-action lawsuit against somebody, probably the state," Rickavaugh said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • sixnitepkg Jan 18, 2008

    evidently these people never built a sand castle at the high tide mark... any child who has will tell you what the end result will be. I would strongly suggest this exercise in futility for the Army Corps of Engineers and all of these homeownwers, then as them why they think they shouldn't have to pay for their own stupidity

  • Madonna Jan 18, 2008

    Applejuice, I think it's to the homeowner's advantage to move the house to recoup some of the cost than to let it fall in and get nothing. I think town administrators would gladly take the house, move it, sell it and make money. Hey, I think there is a business opportunity here.

    Southern Fried, soil on the beach????

  • applejuice Jan 18, 2008

    Desalinization and the bible have nothing to do with this story - but this link should explain why its not cost effective right now. http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/drinkseawater.html

    either way, the ocean will not stop. those sandbags and those homes are temporary. anyone that buys a beach house understands and assumes the risks. some people buy houses a row or two back, full knowing that one day they will become beachfront homes.

  • I know some stuff Jan 18, 2008

    Have you ever seen the prices of these typical beach houses? Ever tried to rent one? CLearly this is a 'rich mans game', so don't fall for the 'funding my retirement' emotion. And,they're doing battle with Nature, which always wins eventually. I don't think the State (thus you and me) should be in that battle, nor sympathetic to their plight.

  • tgw Jan 18, 2008

    So many of the comments show no mercy to these people. I agree about building on the sand though. Yes, the Bible talks about building the house upon the sand.

    It's a shame that our politicians won't look at all that water for desalinization to help keep growth going here in the Triangle Area. 100 mil. gallons per day would not put a dent in the sea creeping toward the land-but it sure would make a difference up here. That would take thinking out of the box from our politicians and that's not going to happen!!!!!

  • Southern Fried Yankee Jan 18, 2008

    If the bags are unsightly, and that seems to be a major reason to remove them, well, just paint them green and call them "sea grass mounds".. Seriously, couldn't they just be buried under a layer of covering sand and just be left to rot over time?....
    What about a layer of soil and grass?

  • applejuice Jan 18, 2008

    so instead of seeing sandbags in front of houses on the beaches, we'll see the remains of these houses instead? is the state going to pay to have these homes (and all pollutants from the materials) removed from the beach when the ocean overtakes them?

  • Madonna Jan 18, 2008

    Also consider the enviromental impact of high density development on the barrier islands. Storm water and sewer runoff has caused our shellfish and fishing industry to be in steady decline. High bacteria count in our beaches and canals. These are problems that we didn't have 20 yrs ago, prior to development boom.

  • uncbabie Jan 18, 2008

    After reading these comments, I take it we won't see any of you at Topsail this summer? That's just too bad.

  • bobbythreesticks Jan 18, 2008


    They have been rebuilding beachs for a long time. If you want to see what can be done with enough money, just google "the world, dubai". These are man made, nothing was here but water, not even underwater islands or sand bars....