Local News

Shell Island Beach Battle Continues to Wash Away

Posted July 14, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT

— A Superior Court judge threw out the latest attempt by Shell Island homeowners to build a seawall to control beach erosion.

The court's decision was a setback for the 140 or so Shell Island homeowners, but first thing Wednesday morning their attorney filed and appeal. He says they are prepared to take this battle all the way to the Supreme Court.

With every wave, the Shell Island Resort is fighting back the ocean.

"We've seen the beach almost disappear here. We watched them put in the sandbags and we were amazed, we thought for sure nature was going to take its course," beach resident Bob Miller said.

Right now Shell Island is being protected by a makeshift sandbag wall, which have to be removed by September of 1999.

When it was built in 1986, there was plenty of beach front. Recently, the ocean has dramatically eroded the beach. The state does not permit seawalls, but condominium owners say this is the only way to save the building.

"If the revetment that you see here was not in place last year would already be lost," resort attorney Ken Shanklin said. "It was migrating south at about a foot a day when it was stopped."

In the lawsuit against the state, owners contend the seawall policy deprives them of their constitutional right to own property. They have lost one legal round, but they won't give up.

"We're extremely pleased. We couldn't be happier," said Alison Davis, who is with the N.C. Coastal Management. "But we know this isn't over either. The Shell Island folks have said they're going to appeal. So we may be in for a long court battle."

The state does not permit seawalls because they protect one portion of the beach, while eroding the beach to the south. Shell Island owners say the building never should have been put in this location. They say a 3000 foot mistake on a state map misled the builder into putting the structure in a dangerous spot.