Towns say beaches performed as expected after nourishment

By on March 14, 2018

Without the 2011 widening, there would have been major problems with this winter’s storms in Nags Head. (Rob Morris)

Officials in the four northern Outer Banks towns that underwent their first-ever beach nourishment project last year say the added sand has, for the most part, done its job through three offshore hurricanes and other smaller storms over the fall and winter, including the major nor’easter early in March.

Meanwhile, Nags Head officials expect to know Thursday if they will be able to renourish their 10 miles of beach this year or next.

Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills combined efforts in 2017 on a $38.5 million project that pumped sand on a total of just over seven miles of beachfront.

The focus of attention on the Outer Banks was the strong winds and high surf produced by the powerful winter storm off New England from March 2-4 for five consecutive high-tide cycles, which sent overwash across the dunes and through breeches from Carova to Ocracoke.

But officials in each of the north beach municipalities noted it wasn’t the first time their beaches have been tested since the project was completed in September.

“The January 4th winter storm packed a pretty good punch and subsequently, there have been several other smaller nor’easters in addition,” said Sandy Cross, permit coordinator for the Town of Duck.

“We saw some odd escarped areas on the berm after the January storm but they have since been leveled out,” Cross said.

Southern Shores beach at low tide on March 9. (Peter Rascoe)

“We did note that the runup from the ocean made it nearly to the top of the dune with this latest March 2-4 storm, however we have not identified any areas where over wash occurred,” Cross said, adding that dune integrity has held up well so far.

“Profile surveys were recently completed in late 2017 and another survey will be conducted by June 2018. This next survey will provide us with the scientific data to determine how the nourished beach fared through these storms.”

“The project engineer was finishing up a townwide beach profile study and commented the project area had actually gained some elevation in places due to the nor’easter (of earlier this month),” said Southern Shores Town Manager Peter Rascoe.

Kitty Hawk Town Manager Andy Stewart said that without the beach nourishment project, there would have been flooded streets and portions of N.C. 12 would have washed away.

Overwash at mile post 2 in Kitty Hawk on March 4. (Carrie Bateman)

“The town did have some minor over wash during the last nor’easter, however, it was very minor,” Stewart said.

No scarping of the dunes at Kill Devil Hills were observed, while some overwash occurred because of significant wave runups that topped 15 feet in some spots, according to Meredith B. Guns, Kill Devil Hills Planning Director.

“We are pleased with the how the beach has reacted with such extreme weather and how well the nourishment has protected previously vulnerable structures and town infrastructure,” Guns said.

“We knew from our engineers that the first winter would rearrange the sand from the way the project was built to the way that nature wanted it to be distributed on the profile.”

She said he town will continue to stabilize the beach with more sea oat plantings next month and continue to build the dune with sand fence.

In Nags Head, Town Manager Cliff Ogburn said conditions were as expected based on previous surveys and considering the town’s 10 miles of beach were first widened in 2011.

That project was a first along the northern Outer Banks and the first in the U.S. to be locally funded.

“Matthew took a chunk out of our beach and absent that event we might not be in need to nourish at this time,” Ogburn said.

“We had some overwash and some damage to oceanfront property but nothing like we would have seen pre-nourishment from a storm like this,” Ogburn said.

Ogburn said the town will open bids Thursday for a project that would place 4 million cubic yards of sand from near mile post 11 to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore border.

The bid amounts may make it more feasible to delay construction until the summer of 2019, but the preferred goal is to renourish this year starting in late June or early July.

Cost estimates have not been released by the town, but using Kill Devil Hills’ price per cubic yard of $7.10, the Nags Head project could come in at about $28.4 million.

Nags Head beach nourishment project, August 2011. (Sam Walker)

Funding for the project will come from a combination of revenue from a special oceanfront tax district levy of 17.5 cents per $100 of value, an additional 2.7 cents on the property tax townwide and Nags Head’s portion of Dare County’s beach nourishment fund.

The town is still hoping FEMA will provide rimbursement for a significant amount of the cost because of the amount of sand lost during Hurricane Matthew.

Unlike other parts of North Carolina, such as Wrightsville Beach, dredging operations offshore of the Outer Banks typically take place in the summer months because it is much safer for the crews.

The increased risk of safety and anticipated decreases in productivity in the winter months when sea conditions can shut down dredge operations were found to drive the costs of the projects up to a point where they would have no longer been financially viable, according to Nags Head officials.

All five towns said the companies that designed their projects will be conducting full surveys of beach profiles this spring to evaluate their overall performance.

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Good article. I would appreciate a little more focus on the structure, grammar, and spelling in these articles. There’s errors in every single one!


The dunes created the erosion problem and not removing them to allow for the free flow of water will redistribute the new sand back into the ocean.

Cliff Blakely

I agree with you Bud. A little water in the street doesn’t hurt anything. Let it flow through beach access points. A significant dune,when hit by wave energy, will increase the erosion rate.


As long as there are not dune-lines or any type of ‘wall’ for the ocean to but against, erosion will be mitigated and the overwash will flow. Remember, overwash is a good and necessary thing.