Widening Hatteras beaches would cost as much as $57 million

By on November 4, 2013


Sandbags on the beach at Buxton. (U.S. Geological Survey)

Depending on how long Dare County wants the sand to last, widening the beach on Hatteras Island is projected to cost a total of $37.4 million to $56.7 million, according to a new study.

But the two projects envisioned in Rodanthe and Buxton are unlikely to happen if the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are not willing to work with the county.

Dare wants to pump sand onto stretches of about 2.5 miles each in two severely eroded areas where storm surf washes over and sometimes takes out pieces of N.C. 12, decks, pools and even entire houses.

Coastal Science & Engineering, the same company that headed Nags Head’s 10-mile beach nourishment project two years ago, was hired to put together a feasibility study for the county.

Tim Kana, president of CS&E, told the Board of Commissioners Monday that a hot spot at Rodanthe had lost 800,000 cubic yards of sand and one at Buxton had lost 900,000 compared to adjacent stretches of shoreline.

CS&E’s report cited those amounts as the baselines for widening the beach. More sand than that would be added, and over time, wave action would bring the contour even with the shoreline to the north and south, Kana said.

map2In Rodanthe, a project that would hold up for five years would need 1.38 million cubic yards of sand at a cost of $17.5 million. A 10-year project would need 2.8 million cubic yards of sand and cost $30 million.

Setting up an offshore dredge and a system for pumping sand onto the beach, then taking down the operation, would account for $3.5 million of the cost in both scenarios, the report said.

Estimates for the Buxton project came to $19.85 million for a 5-year duration and 1.48 million cubic yards of sand. A 10-year project would need 2.26 million cubic yards at $26.7 million.

In response to questions from commissioners, Kana said that even if they were allowed by the state, offshore breakwaters would far exceed the cost of beach nourishment. He said, however, that groins, or jetties could help.

CS&I located areas of suitable sand 1.7 to 2.5 miles offshore in 35 to 45 feet of water.

Since the projects would affect areas overseen by Fish and Wildlife and the Park Service, the endorsement of the federal agencies is essential, said County Manager Bobby Outten.

“This is your feasibility study so we know whether we can afford it, whether it in fact can be done,” he said.

The next step is to begin to talk to the federal agencies as well as the state Department of Transportation before spending any more money, Outten said.

“If they’re going to say you can’t touch property that we own, then our decision sort of is made for us,” he said.

One factor in the overall cost could be the extent of emergency beach nourishment by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and NCDOT at Mirlo Beach just north of Rodanthe to protect N.C. 12, Outten said.

The county is looking at a budget of $25 million. Dare would borrow money for the project and pay it back from the county’s Shoreline Management Fund. Kitty Hawk, Duck and Kill Devil Hills have also been promised money from the fund.

If everything went smoothly, the county could start the projects in the summer of 2015, Kana said.

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November 6, 2013 8:23 am

jon, I don’t understand the high cost for Buxton as it’s a very short shot of beach.


November 5, 2013 11:45 pm

Ten-year cost of nourishment, by town/village:

Nags Head (complete): $36M
Duck: $14M
Kitty Hawk: $17M
KDH: $11M
Buxton: $27M
Rodanthe: $30M

Total $135M = $13.5M per year.

The 2% occupancy tax raises $8M per year, that leaves $5.5M to come from property taxes.

The beaches where nourishment is successful and financially feasible have higher oceanfront densities than Dare County. Unless we want that too, we are going to have to think up a different idea.


November 5, 2013 8:51 pm

There’s been too many years of putting band aids on or just plain ignoring our trouble spots. It’s gotten us where we are today and is the reason why the price tag is so much. Something needs to be done at the north end of Buxton and Rodanthe now.


November 5, 2013 6:55 pm

What is the difference in nourishing Hatteras Island than anywhere else on either coast? Unlike most nourished areas it is our life line. This island accounts for too much revenue not to protect it. How about all the sand dredged out of Oregon Inlet, it could protect all of the Outer Banks instead of dumping it back to sea. It’s time our politicians use common sense instead of special interests making all the rules. What happened to January of 2014, now we have to wait another year? Does the Park Service and Fish & wildlife not have the common sense that without nourishment their beloved birds have no where to nest when it’s gone. Those who are against this project, would you think different if it was your heritage and incomes at stake. Bet ya would.

Mark Williamson

November 5, 2013 9:36 am

Complete waste of money. You can find pictures on the internet of the same spots in trouble 40 years ago. Sorry folks, but we are eroding on the sound side also. A few years ago I saw tree stumps at the surfline at the S curves, just like Carova and North Swan beach. That means the the ocean was a long way out, not to long ago for a forest to thrive. What, 1000, 2000 years ago? This is not a place that will be here forever.


November 5, 2013 7:00 am

cldd6, Buxton is private property. Rodanthe area in question is Fish&Wildlife. DOT did not work work into Rodanthe or Mirlo.


November 5, 2013 6:56 am

The dune lines are what causes erosion and prevents sand migration.
Git rid of the lines and the beaches will build and gain elevation.


November 4, 2013 7:38 pm

It has been 40 years since any beach nourishment project has been done on Hatteras island, except for repairing the inlets that have been created. The cost of nourishment for both areas would be less than a million a year if you factor in 40 years of ” letting nature take its course” Hatteras island brings in millions to the county and state. Not to mention our only highway being closed and the cost of the additional ferries, fuel and payroll. Every state along the eastern seaboard nourishes their beaches on a regular basis, just not Dare county. This county is in such bad shape that all areas need to be nourished and stablized. This nourishment wouldn’t cost a tenth of what has been spent dredging Oregon inlet this decade. It sounds like a lot of money but compare it to the tens of millions in loss revenue, cost of repairs, retreating the highway, loss of a safe passage to the mainland. The federal agencies that Dare county has to go through to get a permit is one reason, but we deserve a safe passage to the mainland and the tourists that love Hatteras Island deserve to feel confident enough to come to our island and not get trapped. We have lost business for two straight Falls and many years of a washed out lifeline. It is past time to nourish our ” hotspots” and let us have a chance of living with what most people take for granted, getting to a hospital if needed. This study shows that Buxton has lost more beach than Rodanthe, and nothing has been done for that area, at least Rodanthe has gotten sand and sandbags. The next storm, Buxton will become a major breach or inlet, there is a small grassed dune right beside the highway not visible but the ocean is right to the dune, in the exact place that an inlet was trying to form during hurricane Fran. And NCDOT moved the highway as far west as possible. There are many methods of stabilizing our coastline, http://www.reefbeach.com is one used all over the world and could help our ocean become healthy too. I agree that we need nourishment but we also need to keep the sand in place with a stabilization method . This is the birthplace of America, humans were on these banks for hundreds of years, I was born in Buxton, my mother and grandmother were too, geologists want us to move or accept that you can’t fight Mother Nature, then don’t get surgeries or take preventative measures in other areas of life. It’s beyond stupid to tell Hatteras island for the past 40 years that we are” letting nature take its course” while dredging both ends of this barrier island as hard as they can. How is that letting nature take its course? We deserve the same protection for our businesses and safety of our lifeline! I’m not saying that the inlet shouldn’t be stabilized, but you cannot dredge the inlets removing the sand from our system that would naturally flow South to our beaches, and tell us for the past 40 years, we aren’t doing anything and we have laws that won’t let you protect your property either! It’s wrong.

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