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Study to look at Masonboro Island erosion



Masonboro Island in New Hanover County is known as an undeveloped treasure among the state's barrier islands. Yet, its shoreline also carries a critical story — a history of erosion and accretion cycles, as well as dredging of nearby inlets.

That "geomorphologic evolution" is the topic of a research fellowship funded by North Carolina Sea Grant through a new partnership with the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management's (DCM) Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve Program (NCNERR). Kristen L. Hall, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, will use varied tools to review the changes on the island since 1857, providing valuable information according to John Fear, NCNERR research director.

"Understanding how the island has changed through time will help the NCNERR best manage the island in support of our core program activities: research, education and stewardship," Fear notes. "We look forward to the initiation of Kristin's project, and the realization of this new NCNERR/North Carolina Sea Grant partnership."

Steve Rebach, Sea Grant's associate director, agrees, noting that Hall's study will consider natural processes as well as changes by humans. "Her background in geology and sedimentology provided her experience with satellite mapping and radar-based measuring tools," he says.

The study data and results will be shared with the DCM, which is developing the state's Beach and Inlet Management Plan.

Working with Lynn Leonard at UNCW, Hall will use aerial photographs, as well as geographic information systems, better known as GIS, and LIDAR, an acronym for "light detection and ranging." In addition to working with DCM staff, she will gather and analyze data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. She gathered initial information through a survey of Masonboro Island as a summer REACH intern for the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Her more detailed project focusing on the island hits home. "I grew up in Wilmington, going to Masonboro Island all the time," says Hall, who has a bachelor's degree from North Carolina State University. She previously was a Marine Quest camp counselor at UNCW; an educator and dive team member at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher; and part of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration team that looked at harmful algal blooms.

Located in the southern portion of Onslow Bay, Masonboro Island is eight miles long, with Carolina Beach Inlet to the south and Masonboro Inlet to the north. Masonboro Island is a component of the NCNERR.

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I think is was in seventh

I think is was in seventh grade that we learned that erosion only exists once you build a structure. On islands with no structures all you have is natural migration. And now we are spending money to investigate that?

Actually, the 'natural

Actually, the 'natural migration' you refer to is called erosion by people who made it past the seventh grade. The man made structures have no impact as to how this process is termed.

you obviously didn't

you obviously didn't understand the point. On Masonborro island there are no public or private dwellings that are endanger of being lost. On an island like that nothing is lost, it is only moved and deposited somewhere else. My point was that there will more than likely tax money spent on this study when there is no public or private property in danger of being lost. If not then I'm all for it.

you obviously missed the

you obviously missed the point. Is there is any danger of public or private property eroding away. No. The only thing that is happening is a natural island migrating south just like it has for ever. I do not believe it is our government's job to spend our tax money unless it is to protect personal rights or property.

While I cannot be sure of

While I cannot be sure of the intentions of this research, one end product of this investigation is it will help establish erosion rates for undisturbed beaches. The data collected would then be useful in determining the differences in "erosion controlled beaches" and beaches without such structures. These structures are the kind that supposedly protect beach front properties. There exists an on going debate as to the practicality of erosion control structures and Masonboro Island is free of such structures.

Perhaps, to address what was described in the article, another point of the experiment is to determine the how dredging effects the sedimentation rates of Masonboro Island. Beings as dredging occurs all along the North Carolina coast, it is important to understand if the dredging reduces the building of the island or island beaches. Supposing there is a negative relationship between dredging and accretion of sand on beaches, then properties near the areas that are being dredged are being eroded away due to the dredging. The confirmation or refutation of this supposition will help determine future beach policy.