Nourishment project prepares Atlantic Beach for summer
Posted April 27
Atlantic Beach, N.C. — With summer approaching, crowds will soon be flocking to the North Carolina coast, and while they may expect the beaches to be wide and sandy, nature often has other ideas.
Communities, including Atlantic Beach, rely on beach re-nourishment projects after storms like Hurricane Matthew come along and cause major erosion, but not everybody thinks re-nourishing is a healthy idea.
As storms come, the sand goes. Beach house owner Jeff Johnson has to put up with the pipes that pump tons of sand from the inlet leading to the Morehead City port and dump it on Atlantic Beach.
“We’ve been down here enough times before where the beach is up at the dunes. It just disappears so fast,” Johnson said. “You sort of put with it in order to have a beach.”
The Army Corps of Engineers is footing the bill for a single project that will nourish North Carolina beaches.
“It has been a necessary evil and will probably remain a necessary evil,” said UNC professor of marine sciences Pete Peterson.
Peterson said the project leads to the crushing of clams and other critters and that all the new sediment makes the water look brown.
Peterson also points to climate change, saying it will spawn more storms and swell sea levels.
“Our beach nourishment projects that we do routinely are going to get a heck of a lot more expensive,” Peterson said.
Atlantic Beach Mayor Trace Cooper said they nourish the beaches every five to 10 years. He said in a tourist economy built upon sand, beach nourishment is essential.
“I don’t live in a lab. I live in the real world, and I represent citizens who have billions of dollars invested in their homes here,” Cooper said.
Cooper recalls his boyhood, before the nourishment projects, when dunes were drained. He said while erosion may be a natural occurrence, it doesn’t mean the town shouldn’t take steps to remedy the problem.
“A forest fire is a naturally occurring thing, that doesn’t mean we don’t try to put it out when it gets near someone’s house,” Cooper said.