New sand from beach widening project is drifting too far west

By on March 11, 2014

walkways

Partially buried walkovers near Jennette’s Pier. (Rob Morris)

Too much of a good thing in Nags Head is burying walkways, swimming pools and septic fields under drifting dunes.

Some of the sand that was pumped onto the beaches during the town’s massive widening project two years ago is not sliding back into the ocean. Instead, it’s piling up and over the dune line, mainly south of The Village at Nags Head.

Last week, the Board of Commissioners agreed to ask the state to allow exceptions to limits on how much sand can be moved from private property and back onto the beach with bulldozers and other equipment.

One concern is that without such an exception, property owners would have to haul the sand off to get rid of it.

Planning and Development Director Elizabeth Teague said that a decision by the state Division of Coastal Management is expected in 30 days. The amendment would be to the Coastal Area Management Act permit that the town received for beach nourishment and maintenance. Town officials have been working with Coastal Management on ways to address the problem.

Time is running short because turtle nesting season starts at the beginning of May.

A series of storms with intense northeast winds this winter has made things worse. A look around the area reveals that stairways to the beach have almost disappeared. Sand is filling at least one swimming pool and migrating toward others.

pool

Sand migrating into pool. (Town of Nags Head)

Town Engineer David Ryan told commissioners that the mountains of sand threaten to make access to some septic fields impossible without digging up the dunes.

“You’ve got a drier, wider beach with prevailing northeast winds in the wintertime so that there’s nothing there to go ahead and capture the sand other than sand fencing in place if you don’t have any vegetation to capture that,” he said.

The board included language that requires homeowners to obtain permission from the town. The town will oversee the work, which is limited to Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Beach pushes used to be allowed if a property owner had obtained a permit from the state Division of Coastal Management. But an ordinance generally banning pushes with machinery was enacted in 2011, not long before the town’s 10-mile, $36 million widening project was finished.

Limited maintenance to remove sand from private property is still allowed, but not to the extent that might be necessary in some instances where larger volumes have drifted west.

For the most part, dune fencing and grass helps the sand stay put. The town plans next to look at measures for longer-term fixes for the sand migration.

Meanwhile, property owners will be asked to pile the sand to create a secondary fore dune, which will create a trough to slow the drifting down.

sand


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