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North Topsail Beach has new plan to fight erosion, but will it work?

Posted January 16, 2015
Updated January 17, 2015

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— A plan to realign the New River Inlet and save some Topsail Island beaches from erosion has yet to produce the desired results, but that's not discouraging residents or leaders in North Topsail Beach who say it might take five years to see change.

Until then, they are building up.

The Onslow County community is waging a war against the waves by building a temporary sandbag wall as high as the dunes that once were there.

"We got a lot of work from engineers and scientists who restore beaches at this location and others," Mayor Dan Tuman said. "They tell me it's possible."

The cost of the $2.2 million project will be split between the town and homeowners, who are each looking at a bill of about $50,000.

Thirty-nine houses, almost all rentals, sit on or in the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. The town has already rebuilt much of its 11-mile shoreline, extending the sand 100 feet or more, and Tuman expects similar results for the beaches along the New River Inlet.

"Eventually, this beach will be restored again. The engineering actions will kick in, the ebb tide flow will reform, sand will be put on the beach," Tuman said. "Those bags will be gone, and you won't even know they will have existed."

Not everyone agrees.

Marine geologist Stan Riggs studies North Carolina's changing coastline and doesn't believe moving beaches can be corralled.

"It's ridiculous," Riggs said. "They are scamming the public to think they can keep them there."

Riggs said it was just a few years ago when homes currently sitting on the ocean front were second-row houses. The first row fell victim to the encroaching ocean.

"It's a high-risk environment," Riggs said. "Can we win the man-versus-nature battle? No."

"If it's not stable, and it can't stay, we'll do everything in our power to find a solution, if at all possible," Tuman said.

But the one possibility no one can predict is when another hurricane will change the North Topsail Beach's landscape.


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