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North Topsail Working to Remove Rocks on Beach; Requesting Extension on Sand Project

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Finding good quality sand that is also compatible with the existing sand on a beach is an ongoing challenge for beach renourishment projects in North Carolina.  

Just recently, officials at North Topsail discovered that the contractor pumping sand onto their beach during the current project was also pumping rocks onto the beach -- some as large as basketballs. 

"We’re always going to have to really struggle to find good, beach quality sand in the quantities that we’re going to need moving into the future.  What I brought is a perfect example of how things go awry in a hurry…"

That’s Tracy Skrabal.  She’s a coastal geologist with the North Carolina Coastal Federation.  And she’s holding up a very large, pock-marked rock that she picked up from North Topsail Beach.  What happened there, she says, is not just an immediate problem for people and nesting sea turtles; it’s emblematic of the challenges that lie ahead as nourishment loses its ability to mitigate the impacts of sea level rise and more frequent and intense storms from climate change.

"Beach nourishment is an excellent strategy right now, but we really have to be thinking much more proactively.  We’ve got to be thinking of the second half of the century when these sea level rates are well understood that they are going to increase.  And you’re talking about vast amounts of property owners that are going to be left holding the bag if we don’t start thinking about it."

As for North Topsail, they’ve modified their project slightly.  They’ll put less sand on the beach in order to stay within budget, and they’re paying a separate contractor to remove the rocks from the beach – down to a depth of four feet.

Town officials say rock boxes are screening out any further dangerous material.  They’re also asking for an extension on the project that would let them continue to pump sand until the end of May.  

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.