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N.C. Beaches Eroding 2 Feet Per Year, Study Finds

Posted June 20, 2007

North Carolina beaches are eroding at about 2 feet per year, according to a report released Wednesday by researchers at UNC Wilmington, East Carolina and Appalachian State.

If southern beaches are not “re-nourished,” 14 out of 17 recreational swimming areas will be gone by 2080, the report found.

Researchers looked at not only how rising sea levels will affect the look of our coast. It also breaks down the losses in tourism, real estate and other industries.

“Sea level rise is expected to eliminate a number of beaches in North Carolina, a number of barrier islands,” said John Whitehead, a researcher with Appalachian State.

Another way to think of it is that if the sea level rises one foot, it could move the shoreline in up to 10,000 feet, depending on which part of the coast you're on. The outer banks would feel the biggest impact, since the northern coastal plain is especially flat.

The researchers also said a rising and warmer sea could turn minor hurricanes into much bigger concerns, adding hundreds of millions of dollars to each storm's economic impact.

The report will likely add fire to the sandbag debate and whether beach “re-nourishment” is worth the cost.

The researchers aren't pushing for more money for beach “re-nourishment,” they said. Instead, they hope lawmakers look at their report to determine if saving the beaches is worth the money.

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