A good call on beach nourishment
When the subject of beach nourishment is before elected officials, it’s not often they have the luxury of sitting in the catbird seat.
Kill Devil Hills finds itself in just such a position, and Davies’ statement, followed by the Board of Commissioners’ action to allocate a modest sum for further study, indicates the town’s leaders recognize their advantage.
The town’s neighbor to the south, Nags Head, completed its long-sought sand replenishment program along 10 miles of shoreline in 2011.
Now, we are in “wait and see” mode to determine if the project will work as advertised. There are three possible outcomes for Nags Head: Total success or failure across the project’s entirety over the next five years, or mixed results depending on the underlying geology.
Nags Head’s ambitious project encompasses beach areas perched atop ancient river beds, a combination many nourishment critics say is unsuitable for sand replacement. Other beach sections in Nags Head closely mirror those in Kill Devil Hills and are thought to be more suitable for successful nourishment efforts.
Taken as a whole, Kill Devil Hill’s beaches are in far better shape than those in Nags Head. The most severe erosion is occurring along the town’s northern reaches, those closest to Kitty Hawk.
The rest of the town’s beaches appear to be eroding slowly, and some areas have experienced accretion over the past two decades.
Nags Head project managers informed the public before the first grains were placed along their beaches that the much of the new sand was designed to wash away and move into the “swash zone” just off the beach.
This is the sand that tends to disappear in the winter—narrowing the beaches and return in the spring and summer as winds and storms subside.
It will take at least two full years of these seasonal dances before we will know if the sand that has moved off the dry beach will remain in the “system” and feed the beaches as planned, or if it has moved offshore or downstream and lost forever.
With a real-life project undergoing the ultimate test just to the south, there is no need for Kil Devil Hills to rush into its own project.
The $88,000 study authorized will take them through the first two years of the Nags Head project, and that study will be able to include actual data from Nags Head’s experience.
At the conclusion of the KDH study, the knowledge base of how an engineered project works in reality will no doubt be greatly enhanced.
Among all of Dare’s oceanfront municipalities, Kill Devil Hill’s beaches claim ownership of the largest tax base and revenue generators. Thus, their stake in maintaining the “factory” that produces that revenue is huge.
Barring a catastrophic storm, however, the town has the twin luxuries of time and the ability to watch and learn from the Nags Head project.
Davies’ words were wise, and the board demonstrated common sense in expending a modest sum to fund further study while we all watch the evolution of the engineered product just to the south.
Kudos to the board for exercising restraint, recognizing the advantages and giving our visitors the added bonus of allowing the county to delay a planned 1 percent increase in occupancy taxes.
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