Wrightsville’s renourishment and sea level rise

by Cole Dittmer
Wednesday, December 19, 2012

At the Dec. 13 meeting of the Port, Waterway and Beach Commission, New Hanover County’s shore protection coordinator, Layton Bedsole Jr., said the United States Army Corps of Engineers has funding in place to develop plans in the anticipation of a beach renourishment project in Wrightsville Beach next winter. This project would be funded through the remaining federal shore protection funds Wrightsville Beach still has access to, which would require a 35-percent local match. 

Bedsole said Wrightsville Beach and Kure Beach are the next beaches scheduled for renourishment projects and that the county would begin looking at options for acquiring permits for one or both of those beaches. 

However, for the Carolina Beach renourishment project, Bedsole said the USACE’s process for reauthorizing the 50-year-old project has been slow.

“The corps really hasn’t come forward with a plan that makes common sense to me,” Bedsole said. “All I have to tell you is the corps said they have to start over, which is disappointing.” 

The project was first authorized in 1962 and will expire in 2014. Bedsole said his department has been working with U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre to develop a 15-year buffer to prevent these funded projects from ending abruptly. 

At the end of Thursday’s meeting, North Carolina Sea Grant coastal construction and erosion specialist, Spencer Rogers, presented the commission with his research about adapting to sea level rise. Some of the barriers include its incrementally slow rate of change, which leads to non-inclusion in long-range municipal planning, and the fact that it is an uncertain science, Rogers said. 

Locally, sea level rise will be minimal for the next 30 years, Rogers said, adding that the increments would grow larger and larger toward the end of the 90-year span he has been using in research. At the end of that 90 years, Rogers said various studies have suggested there could be anywhere from 1-2 meters of rise. Within 30 years, Rogers said there would be around 8 inches of rise, 5 inches of which would be the historical rate of rise, and 3 inches of which is the accelerated rate. 

All along the 90-year span, Rogers said coastal areas can expect to see more frequent shallow water flooding and higher extreme flood events, which will become more severe over time. 

To adapt to the rising sea level, Rogers said it would be important to further the shift to the practice of building structures on pilings, review the North Carolina hurricane building code since it is the second oldest in the country and restructure the national flood insurance program. 

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