In the 1930’s an artificial dune line was created covering most of the Outer Banks – from the Virginia border to Hatteras Inlet. Prior to this time most of the Outer Banks was subject to ocean-to-sound over wash and storm flooding. The combination of this artificial dune line and the planting of many different types of vegetation stabilized these islands, reduced the wind born transport of sand and created an area that could be developed.
Increasing development of our beaches, the threatening of state and local infrastructure assets and a perceived threat to the economic basis of our local economy have forced local officials and other stake holders to find a solution to the problems of coastal beach erosion in the form of beach-fill projects.
The Surfrider Foundation is working proactively to promote conservation and responsible coastal management that avoids the creation of coastal hazards or erosion problems. We believe that the construction of new structures (especially those located in relatively high erosion areas or “hot spots”) close to a dynamic coastal environment should be avoided. Complex issues arise when naturally dynamic coastal processes encounter static human development and when humans interfere with marine and littoral systems. In areas where structures already exist, all alternatives to beach-fill projects should be carefully considered in a scientific manner. Landward retreat may be a cost effective, long term solution that should be fully considered. We believe that our elected officials should be stewards of our unique environment, as well as our economy, and that these policies may actually compliment each other. We believe that policy makers should adopt a sustainable long term solution that recognizes the effects of these decisions on the environment and future generations.
The risks and actual costs associated with engaging in some beach-fill projects may be higher than previously recognized. These include: negative effects on near shore fish habitat and the surf fishing economy, the potential loss of several valuable and well known surfing breaks, the possibility that sand used in beach fill project may erode faster than naturally placed sand, the continued reliance on re-fill projects as an ongoing policy that is environmentally damaging and the effects on tourism during the construction phase and during phases of re-fill.
All alternatives to beach-fill projects should be scientifically considered in terms of the environment and economy for the long term. We are concerned there have been no scientific studies conducted that address the adverse economic impact of beach-fill projects in Dare County on recreational beach activities such as surfing and surf fishing. The economic costs of continued development of structures built in high erosion areas, the reliance of local governments for tax revenue generated by these structures and an on going policy of beach-fill projects may ultimately be much higher than implementing county wide policies that discourage building in high erosion areas. If “protecting” our beaches means protecting tax revenues, the county would be prudent to diversify sources of tax revenue.