Erosion impacting residents, human and sea creature, in Ocean Isle Beach

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OCEAN ISLE BEACH, NC (WWAY) — The Ocean Isle Beach Sea Turtle Protection Organization patrols beaches looking for nests that weathered Hurricane Isaias.

Island Coordinator Debra Allen says 20 nests were impacted, more than 900 eggs were lost due to the storm surge.

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Allen says the beach needs a renourishment.

“We’ve lost so much of our island to begin with and after this hurricane you’ll see on the island where, I have pictures from when the nest was verified and after the hurricane it looks like you’re on a different island because the dunes are completely devastated,” Allen said.

OIBSTPO verifies a sea turtle nest (photo: Debra Allen)
The same nest after Isaias (photo: Debra Allen)

Erosion was a problem for the turtles even before the hurricane.

“A nest had to be relocated more often than we like because of the erosion. It started at the water line and it was just creeping back, closer and closer to the dunes,” Allen said.

Because of severe erosion, nests at the east end of the island almost always have to be relocated or they would be destroyed by the tides.

“Between the hurricane and these high tides it has completely wiped out the road,” East End Resident Toni Titone said.

Mayor Debbie Smith says the town has been working towards a solution for the east end for more than 15 years.

In 2017, a plan for a terminal groin to help hold the sand came to a halt. A lawsuit filed on behalf of Audubon North Carolina blocked the construction of the groin, claiming there were more cost effective and environmentally friendly ways to fight erosion.

Some east end residents disagree.

“One of their plans was to do nothing and if doing nothing leads to what we have now, because that’s what we’ve been allowed to do is do nothing, we have had total devastation on this end,” Another East End Resident Glenda Browning said.

Browning says she knew what she signed up for when she bought the property, but the damage would not have been as severe had the groin already been installed.

But for now everyone is waiting, hoping for some kind of solution soon.

Mayor Debbie Smith says the town won the lawsuit originally, but it is now in the appeals process and if the town wins again they plan to go forward with installing the groin.

For the rest of the island, she says a renourishment is scheduled for next year. If all goes as planned and funding goes through, the project will take place between winter 2021 and spring 2022.

On Wednesday, September 23 a representative from Audubon North Carolina provided the following statement:

“The permit issued to Ocean Isle Beach for the terminal groin broke federal law, in large part by depriving the public of a fair analysis of this $45 million project. Rather than taking a fair look at alternatives, the analysis was designed to make the groin appear to be the best option, despite the negative impacts on the community. We recognize the difficult situation of homeowners on the east end of Ocean Isle. Residents, property owners, and visitors to Ocean Isle Beach deserve an objective analysis of this project.

Research shows that terminal groins unnaturally trap sand that would otherwise end up on other parts of the beach. In this instance, the groin would rob sand from other parts of Ocean Isle. The end result would be increased erosion elsewhere, making taxpayers and wildlife foot the bill. That said, the permit is currently valid. Ocean Isle could continue seeking bids or exploring alternatives while the litigation is pending.”