A Physical and Controversial Analysis of Shoreline Change on North Carolina’s Barrier Islands

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With the density of development in North Carolina’s coastal counties at an unprecedented high, the encroaching ocean is met with a heightened sense of urgency by coastal property owners. In this urgent call for coastal managers and legislators to remedy coastal investments, there is not a clear consensus to the appropriate action or lack thereof. The physical complexity of the shoreline is such that no two segments are alike and every action has consequences, making the balance of tradeoffs a very controversial matter. This research uses the historical shoreline mapping of Springer’s Point nature preserve on the barrier island of Ocracoke to demonstrate the naturally dynamic system of an undeveloped, but historically and ecologically valued property. Subsequent interviews with professionals working on coastal management issues provide a firsthand account of the political complexity of North Carolina’s shoreline, particularly with the added variable of development. Professional perspectives regarding the state and fate of our shoreline shed light on the controversy that is further fueled by accelerated sea level rise and the consequential political pressures. While urgency sometimes leads to short-term solutions, the informed advice and proposals of these professionals offer potential long-term alternatives. The key to our shoreline’s future largely relies on the actions and legislation that we put in place today.





Kelly, Katelin (2010). A Physical and Controversial Analysis of Shoreline Change on North Carolina’s Barrier Islands. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/2145.

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