North Topsail Beach, Photo by Youtube

North Carolina: Leaders, Analysts Continue Debating Building On Coast

RALEIGH - Coastal communities are no strangers to the heavy winds and the massive storm surges hurricanes bring. Hurricane Dorian was no different when it hammered North Carolina's barrier islands at the start of September.

The people are resilient. They will rebuild, as they always do, after each hur ricane. But should they?

That's the question local officials should be asking, a professor specializing in shoreline management says.

Rob Young, a geology professor at Western Carolina University and director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines, is ringing the alarm on coastal development.

"Hurricane Dorian caused the most geomorphological change on any barrier island in my 30-year career," Young said during a Sept. 17 Crucial Conversations event sponsored by N.C. Policy Watch.

While breaches on the coast aren't uncommon, and inlets come and go, Young said Dorian's effect on the coast was unprecedented. Dorian over washed massive amounts of sand, and some of the breaches may persist.

"I fear we have reached some sort of threshold here on Cape Lookout that has changed the regime of this island," Young said. "There's just not as much sand as there used to be."

Young said Cape Lookout may be sending a message to all North Carolina's barrier islands.

It's time to talk about managed retreat from the coast, the WCU professor said. Instead of repeatedly rebuilding on the coast after each storm, Young proposes the government buy properties in high-risk zones and demolish them, allowing the coast to revert to its natural state. Coastal properties are at risk of flooding from storm surges and are made even more vulnerable by beach erosion.

Read more . . .

Listen to Dr. Rob Young interview on the American Shoreline Podcast re North Topsail Beach Study

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