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Coastal Reform Act lifts cap on terminal groins in NC

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

A new bill that would lift the cap on the number of terminal groins allowed in the state passed the Senate Wednesday. 

Terminal Groins, hardened, jetty-like structures designed to control beach erosion, were illegal in North Carolina until 2011.  That’s when a compromise bill passed allowing a limited number of them – with very strict guidelines accompanying each project. 

But as WHQR’s Rachel Lewis Hilburn reports, opponents of the Coastal Policy Reform Act of 2013 say the bill guts protections for taxpayers and the environment. 

Four beach towns in the state, including Bald Head Island, are seeking to build terminal groins. 

Suzanne Dorsey is Executive Director of the Bald Head Island Conservancy.  That island is unique, says Dorsey, because it has no downstream neighbors that could be negatively impacted by a jetty-like structure – and because the Island sits on an active shipping channel. 

“This has resulted in non-natural and accelerated erosion along several of our beaches.”

The Coastal Reform Act, sponsored by Senator Bill Rabon of Brunswick County, removes some of the prohibitive costs of an erosion-control project – partly by allowing state money to be used. 

But, says Dorsey, building terminal groins up and down the coast as a way of stopping beach movement can be a misguided effort.

“I think that very often terminal structures are positioned as sort of a silver bullet solution to erosion.  And they’re not that.  They are a way of delaying the impacts of storms and sea level rise but they do not mitigate it.  So, that impact of sea level rise and storms will continue to be there.”

Senator Thom Goolsby of New Hanover County voted for the bill but didn’t respond to a request for comment by deadline.  The bill now moves to the House.

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.