Published Somedays

It's time to give up the ridiculous practice of building on barrier islands

(updated: Dec 20, 2014)

Friday I went out to Topsail to ride on the beach. Low tide was around 11:30am. I only ride at low tide. I park about the middle of the island, then determine which way to go based on the wind. This day the wind was blowing out of the North. Since I like to have the return portion of the ride with the wind at my back, I headed North.

From there things got interesting. A few miles up the beach, I biked into a roadblock of sorts. The beach was essentially gone. I'm not sure what was going on, but workers were pushing sand around using bulldozers and a pipe was delivering a sand-seawater slurry. I'm thinking that this part of the beach became very narrow and they were trying to renourish the beach.

In my post back in Feb 2013 I discussed the beach renourishment project at the North end and how it seemed to be removing sand from the middle of the island. Well now it appears that the recent loss of sand was enough to make the beach disappear here.

After taking a few pictures, I had to hop onto the road for a bit to get around the job site, and then I was back on the beach heading north again.

Nothing out of the ordinary for the next several miles (except for one guy asking me about my fat tire bike, but that happens frequently), until I got to the north end. There I discovered severe beach erosion. This was the very same area that they renourished less than two years ago. These condos with the giant sand bags around it were now in the water -- remember I was there at dead low tide and the water was up to the sand bags. I had to ride on top of the bags to get by (or ride in the water).

Two years ago the result of the beach renourishment was a wide buffer of 100 yards or more. That has now all been wiped out by Mother Nature, the sand brought back out to sea and the sea to the buildings that should have never been built there. It is a waste of money. And if taxpayers funded this, then it is a waste of taxpayer money. Just wait until there's a powerful hurricane. Would you like to subsidize that? Oh wait, you already are if you live in NC, through the NCIUA.

Should our local, state, and/or federal government decide to implement a more permanent solution, such as rock jetties, it will be one less place untarnished by man, as well as having other unintended consequences. These places are becoming rare now. At least now I can look out toward the east and only see an occasional boat. What's next, thousands of windmills sticking out of the sea? Ugly cell phone towers? Oil rigs?


Here are some before and after photos:


These photos were taken July 2013. Note the large buffer that was restored by the last beach renourishment project:

Here is another view:


Look at it now. These are the same buildings. This is dead low tide!

The sandbags I had to ride over:

Sorry, the sand bags have to go, along with the buildings:

More before and after photos:


July 2013. Houses at the north end. Note the large buffer:


Now. Workers are installing an emergency buffer around these properties using a long sand tube, excavating sand from the water and dumping it behind the tube. This is clearly unplanned work:

The water goes right beneath the homes. It won't be long before these are gone. They are taped off so they may be condemned now:

This one has lost it's decks:

Workers inflating the giant sand tube. Will it work? I don't know, but they better work faster instead of staring at me (especially the guy halfway in the water), the tide is starting to come in.

A wider perspective. It may be too late. One more storm and these homes are gone:

Area is taped off. Compare the red roof house in this photo to the before pic.

They took all this sand from the tip of the north end in an attempt to shore up the shore (Ha!). A desperate attempt? Makes a nice drop, however.

Yet in spite of what is happening, they are going to build new homes here! I guess there's a never a shortage of suckers.

This is what I ran into near the middle of Topsail Island:

Riding through this mess presents a challenge:

Look how far out they are pumping the sand from. It may be too shallow for that ship any closer.


Filed Under: Ride Reports > North Carolina > Topsail


1. Mike said...

You are right SBA, about the waste of money and effort (mostly at the taxpayers expense). As a geologist, I can tell you that the barrier island system is indeed in constant motion. They are not the "solid ground" that residents and developers seem to think. They are rivers of sand that move southward and landward with a natural process that is evident in the geological record. I am not in the practice of telling someone what they can/can't do with their land, but I shouldn't have to pay to save their land from moving out from under them, either. We, the taxpayers do not have enough money to bribe the Atlantic Ocean into staying out of their "yards".

Dec 23, 2014 @ 7:47 AM


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