Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Nature Notes: Coastal North Carolina
This week my nature notes will be about coastal North Carolina since I was recently at Atlantic Beach, NC and took a ton of photos.
Atlantic Beach is on the Bogue Banks and is a barrier island bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Bogue Sound.
I was so happy to see how well the dunes were doing with lush sea oats and other grasses in the best shape I've seen them.
The beach has gone through a number of stages in my lifetime. I can't remember how long ago it was that the waves were lapping on the sea wall and major nourishment began at Atlantic Beach, NC.
I think replanting native grasses and keeping foot traffic off most of the dunes is great but I have very mixed feelings about the way my state invested huge sums of money in hauling huge quantities of sand to basically try to push the ocean back.
I don't remember exactly when the last major fill in of sand was done on this beach. It may have been as much as 20 years ago but the ocean has already begun to take back a lot of the ground.
Part of what bothers me is that my state hasn't always been sensible, to my way of thinking, in terms of development on the fragile coast. Very little of the maritime forest which used to protect parts of the island has remained.
We do have some great state parks on the coast but there are areas in the 1990s when I thought we should have known better that additional development was allowed. I think in particular of Topsail Island where an area which had been a major breeding ground for birds (the tip of the island where the sound and ocean meet) was developed with more condominiums and cottages.
Topsail was already developed for many decades but that one particular area had been left for the birds. When the newer development occurred, predictably many new cottages ended up in the ocean after a hurricane and new roads on the part of the island which never should have been developed were covered with sand and debris.
My state then began an expensive clean up and cottages were rebuilt which seems so illogical to me. I've veered away from Atlantic Beach to talk about Topsail but what they did at Atlantic beach involved a major protection of established cottages by hauling enormous amounts of sand. Note- this is a quick and dirty non scientific discussion but I'll make up for that with links to better heads than mine.
There is a good discussion of beach nourishment on the NOAA Site and you can click here for that. Basically the point is made that there is no reason for beach nourishment in terms of putting sediment on an eroding shoreline beyond political and economic reasons. I recommend that article.
The problem I have is when we continue to have new development on the fragile shores. I can see the argument for some protection of existing buildings as long as we decide our state (meaning my state of NC) has already reached the point where we have to consider what we are losing with further development.
I also think if we decide to stop developing our shoreline to the point of ruining it, the commitment to public access to the beach must continue as a priority. It certainly wouldn't make any sense to spend state funds on protecting the cottages for the few without giving beach access to the rest of the taxpayers. Frankly though my feeling is when a cottage ends up in the ocean, it's idiotic at that point to allow rebuilding in the same spot although I understand that it's complicated. Then again it would be simple if we let the buildings a block in from the beach front become the new beach front.
On a positive note, there are some good programs which help the shoreline in positive ways. The NCCF has a Habitat restoration and education program which I think does good work. You can click this link for information.
We had great weather at the beach. It was windy but there was only one early evening storm. However, somehow it makes sense to end with the one major dark cloud since this has been a somewhat dark post. Click here for the home of Nature Notes which is officially a Thursday theme. As usual I am early. I guess another point I should make is so far the oil spill hasn't reached the Atlantic but it's of course horrible what is happening in the Gulf.