OCEANFRONT SANDBAG USE IN NORTH CAROLINA: MANAGEMENT REVIEW AND SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT
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North Carolina’s 326 miles of oceanfront coastline is composed of barrier islands. Inherently transitory, the position of these islands and the profile of their beaches naturally fluctuate with the dynamic equilibrium established by waves, wind, storms, and sea level rise. The net result of this dynamic has been erosion of 75% of the coastline, putting oceanfront human development at risk. Erosion rates vary geographically and temporally, ranging from a state average of two feet per year to hundreds of feet in just a few stormy hours. The risk posed to coastal development is ever increasing with the effects of climate change, specifically sea level rise and increased hurricane intensity. A geospatial analysis conducted for this project, incorporating the effects of erosion rates and sea level rise on the shoreline position of Dare County, NC, revealed that more than 97% of the first row, oceanfront homes will encounter waves within the next hundred years. Methods of combating this threat can be divided into three categories: hard stabilization, soft stabilization, and relocation. Under the direction of the Coastal Resources Commission, North Carolina has adopted a progressive approach to regulating the use of erosion control strategies. It encourages relocation and, unlike many other states, it has banned the use of hardened structures on the oceanfront since 1985. The state also has strict rules governing the use of soft stabilization techniques such as sandbags and beach nourishment. However, the state’s policies in practice are not necessarily as strong as in writing. Focusing on the erosion control strategy of sandbags, this paper provides a review of oceanfront sandbag management within North Carolina through analysis of the regulations that guide their use, comparison to alternate erosion control strategies, and recommendations for the future based upon literature review and interviews with professionals in the field.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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