backs away from
dredged sand at Cape Lookout
By FRANK TURSI
Coastal Review Online
listening to the public and consulting the experts, the
superintendent of Cape
Lookout National Seashore decided
to back away from his controversial request that dredged sand
be considered to shore up the eroding end of Shackleford Banks, a
wild, uninhabited island that is part of the park.
heard from a lot of people and we consulted with a number of
scientists,” Patrick Kenney said yesterday. “After weighing all
that, I decided that it was in the best interest of the park that we
not accept sand for the next 20 years. It wasn’t an easy decision.”
in a letter to
Corps of Engineers on
June 11, asks that the Corps remove Shackleford Banks from its
dredging plan for
the harbor at Morehead City, Beaufort Inlet and the channel that
connects the two. The Corps, which has been dredging those places for
more than a century, had proposed for the first time, putting some of
the dredged sand on Shackleford.
had requested that the island be considered in the plan because of the
increased erosion at its western tip, which abuts Beaufort Inlet. The
erosion rate there in recent years has exceeded 100 feet a year,
according to Carteret County surveys. Marine navigation lights that a
few years ago were in the dunes are now at the water’s edge.
proposal touched off jitters across the inlet in Atlantic Beach, which
has come to depend on the Corps’ dredged sand to re-nourish its
beaches. If some of that sand started going to
the town and county would have to cough up millions of dollars to make
up the difference. They now pay next to nothing for the sand.
Beach’s mayor, Trace Cooper, was breathing a little easier
yesterday. “Maintaining deep water at the Morehead City Harbor
important to our local and state economy,” he said. “At the same time,
our beaches are the backbone of our tourism industry.
much needed sand from Bogue Banks to Shackleford would have been a
The proposal also raised sand with
beachcombers and bird watchers, campers and fishermen, boaters and
sunbathers and anyone else who appreciates Shackleford’s wildness. They
packed the auditorium at the Duke Marine Lab near Beaufort in January
for a public hearing on the draft dredging plan. Dozens of people spoke
against the proposal. No one spoke in favor of it.
also consulted respected geologists like Stan Riggs of East Carolina
University and Orrin Pilkey of Duke University. Kenney heard their
message as well.
“They had some pretty strong opinions about
this,” he said. “One of the things that stuck me after talking with
them was that the amount of sand we were going to get wasn’t really
going to benefit the island. You had to weigh that against the adverse
social and environmental effects.”
were the scientists convinced that the long-term dredging of the inlet
triggered the increased erosion on Shackleford. That was the
justification Kenney used for asking to be included in the Corps’ plan.
Park Service policy generally lets nature have its way, but it does
allow superintendents to step in to salve man-made wounds.
his letter to the Corps, Kenney said the shoreline surveys and other
data were too limited in time and scope to accurately determine how
much of the erosion on Shackleford was caused by dredging.
it no longer supports placing sand directly on the beach at
Shackleford, the park wouldn’t object if the Corps put some just
offshore where waves, wind and current would theoretically push it to
the beach, Kenney said. To do any good, though, the sand would have to
be dumped close to shore in less than 24 feet of water.
to be the rub,” Kenney said. “The dredges that the contractors use
won’t let them put it that close to shore.”
sand off Fort Macon at the end of Atlantic Beach – called a “near-shore
berm” in the dredging business – didn’t replenish the town’s beaches,
noted Greg “Rudi” Rudolph, the Shore Protection manager for Carteret
County. “It’s been proven that it doesn’t re-incorporate into the
system,” he said. “It will just remain out there, though the Corps will
say otherwise. For the same reason, we’re not happy with a near-shore
berm off Shackleford.”
sand placed off Shackleford is sand that won’t be directed towards
Atlantic Beach, noted Rudolph. “If the Corps is going to put sand
anywhere offshore Shackleford Banks and not on Bogue Banks, that’s
completely unacceptable. Obviously, the short-term win is no sand on
Shack. In the long term, there is still work that needs to be done.”
noted that that the public review process did as intended. “That’s an
important point to make,” he said. “It was a planning process to look
at alternatives. We looked at them and after talking to experts we came
to a different conclusion. The process worked.”
agreed. “I’m as guilty as anyone else in declaring the ink is dry when
we see the word ‘draft’ on a federal government proposal, and it’s
refreshing to know the process can work – it may be messy and
frustrating, but it can work,” he said.
story is provided courtesy of Coastal Review Online, the coastal news
and features service of the N.C. Coastal Federation. You can read other
stories about the North Carolina coast at www.nccoast.org.)