A Primer on the Buxton Beach Nourishment Project - Shooting The Breeze


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A Primer on the Buxton Beach Nourishment Project

Friday 17 March 2017 at 11:11 am.


On Tuesday, March 7, a public meeting was held at the Buxton Fessenden Center on the upcoming Buxton Beach Nourishment Project that is slated to start this summer. All the major players were there – including the Board of Commissioners, the National Park Service, the leaders from Coastal Science and Engineering (CSE), and the construction firm doing the dirty work – to explain the project in detail, and to answer questions.

And there certainly was a lot of ground, or rather sand, to cover.

So in case you were unable to attend the roughly two-hour meeting, or didn’t catch some of the details from the unending stream of information and multiple power point presentations, here’s a basic primer comprised of FAQs on what’s happening, and what to expect.

When did the beach nourishment project get started?

Though the area north of Buxton was identified as an NCDOT hot spot a few years ago, the project technically started in 2013 with an initial feasibility study conducted by CSE. From there, the legal process to obtain permits for the project commenced, which was fast tracked in order to replenish the Buxton beach sooner rather than later.

It was hoped that the beach nourishment project could be done in the summer of 2016, but the cost was prohibitive due to the tight schedule and unavailability of equipment - (specifically the dredge) - from the bidding contractors. Essentially, it would have cost $34.1 million to do the work in 2016, which was over the $22.96 million budget by about $12 million dollars. By waiting until 2017, when there was less of a crunch to reserve equipment and to get everything in place, the cost was only $22.15 million.

How is it going to work, and where is the new sand coming from?

An offshore dredge will deliver 2.6 million cubic yards of sand from a “borrow pit” that’s located 1.7 miles off the beach. Once on the shoreline, it will be shaped by a crew of dozers into a new and wider shoreline.

Will the area with the “new sand” look different from the rest of the beach?

In terms of the sand itself, probably not. The “borrow pit” site was specifically researched and chosen because the sand there was so similar in quality to the natural sand that is already on the area beaches.

With that being said, the shoreline itself is going to initially look weird. The beaches will appear oddly wide at first, (as they are being widened by 250’ feet), but the shoreline will eventually adjust over time as storms come in and unceremoniously push the oddly-wide beach sand closer to the outlying sand dunes. As Dr. Timothy W. Kana of CSC said at the meeting, “The sooner we have a nice big nor’easter after the project, the sooner we’ll have that natural looking beach.”

So the beach will be back to looking completely normal within a few months, depending on storms.

Do you think there will be some cool shells on the “new” beach, considering that sand is being brought in from 1.7 miles offshore?

Oh, that was my question too! I certainly hope so, (and I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely going to look.)

What area of the shoreline will be affected?

The northern project limit is at the "Haulover" north of Buxton, and the southern limit is at the oceanfront groin near the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

The max length of the nourishment project is 15,500 ft., and the staging area will be the decommissioned Old Coast Guard Base in Buxton. This area includes roughly 11,000 ft. of undeveloped national seashore, just north of Buxton.

When is the beach nourishment happening, and how long will it take?

The project is scheduled to begin on or around June 1, and will be completed by August 31. (It will last a total of 90 days.)

Wait, isn’t the summertime sea turtle nesting season?

Why, yes. Yes it is. In fact, there were 28 sea turtle nests in the project area in 2016.

So what happens if a sea turtle lays a nest where the beach nourishment is slated to occur?

There are actually quite a few environmental protection measures in place for exactly this sort of situation. An endangered species monitor will be on board the dredge itself, and there will be both daytime and nighttime monitors on the beach throughout the process. If a sea turtle nest is found during the project, it will be relocated to a safer spot, and work will continue.

This situation has actually come up before, as during the 2011 Nags Head beach nourishment project, four sea turtle nests were laid within the project parameters. The four nests were relocated, and all had good hatching rates that were in-line with other sea turtle nests in the area.

What “annoyances” can I expect if the project is going on in front of me?

Dr. Kana said at the meeting that the most common complaint about past beach nourishment projects is the backing-up beeping of the dozers. There may also be lights on the beach throughout the night so that the crew can stick to a 24-hours-a-day schedule.

If I live / stay in Buxton, how long will the area in front of me be affected?

Dr. Kana also said at the meeting that the crew completes roughly 250’ feet of beach a day, with a total work area of about 1,000’ feet. As such, people in a targeted area will be impacted, directly, for roughly a week at most.

If the project is going on, can I still get to the beach?

Most likely, yes. The crew will work to leave a corridor for public access that’s close to the dune line. (The corridor will be available in stretches of beach that are essentially wide enough to have one.)

Will the project be filmed?

Hopefully! During the Nags Head Beach Nourishment Project, several videographers and tech-savvy locals and visitors set up cameras to film the action, and create cool videos of the process. (You can check out an especially neat time-lapse video that was featured at last week’s meeting here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGs-OUIi9js)

While there’s no official videographer for the project, in that same vein, folks who want to set up their own web cam to record the action are welcome to. Just don’t stand in front of a dozer, or in the middle of the construction project, to get good footage.

Will sand dunes be built?

This question was asked at the meeting, and the answer is technically, no. They will probably form over time, (see aforementioned “storm-pushing-sand-off-the-beach” section), but they will not be physically created or sculpted during the project from dozers and other construction equipment.

With that being said. Dr. Kana noted at the meeting that installing sand fencing is likely the best way to go to encourage dune growth, and Dare County Commissioner Bob Woodard added that sand fencing may be an initiative - (and more importantly a cost) - that the county would be willing to cover. “It’s certainly within the realm of possibility - we did it in Nags Head,” he said.

Can I volunteer to drive one of the dozers?

This question was also asked at the meeting, and the unfortunate answer is no. (I’m sorry - I’m disappointed too.)

Is there an easy way to learn what’s going on with the project?

Yes! At the meeting, Dare County Public Information Officer Dorothy Hester and Dare County Media Specialist Sara Small outlined how the county will be providing ample info throughout the project through a central website called http://www.morebeachtolove.com.

The ensuing website is going to have tons of info, including interactive maps to see what properties are affected, printable brochures, a sign-up for email updates, and much more. (We’ll also be covering the project in detail at Island Free Press from start to finish, and will provide as many updates, photos, videos, etc. as possible.)

Is beach nourishment really needed for Buxton?

Yes. There’s a reason why this project was fast-tracked.

Anyone driving close to the northern edge of Buxton during a strong nor’easter or storm has likely noticed the sudden appearance of a river of water that flows from the ocean onto NC Highway 12, and which inundates the rest of the town in the process.

The problem has gotten worse over the years - while the local shoreline has become narrower - and it’s time to fix the hot spot.

After all, Buxton is home to some of our best known attractions, (and so is Frisco and Hatteras for that matter.) 2016 had the highest number of visitors to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore in 13 years, with an impressive 2.6 million visits. If folks can’t head to the lighthouse, the local museums, the ferry docks, or the dozens of amazing restaurants and shops found along the way, then that hurts everybody involved.

So while there are certainly drawbacks to a summer beach nourishment project, (just imagining the “BEEP BEEP BEEP” of a dozer is seriously distracting), it’s a much-needed step into ensuring our island stays open and enticing to the public.

seven comments


These projects never last, yes for a year or two maybe even three you will have more beach but then this sand will wash away and cape point will get longer because that is what Nature and the currents do. At Buxton the drift is north to south always has been and always will be. Man can’t stop the Oceans from moving. No, there won’t be any shells on the “new” beach, the sand moved dredging will be of a fine quality after it is ground up and pumped to the beach it will be more like powder. No sand fleas or mole crabs or other invertebrates can live in it either. After it dries out and packs down it’s more like concrete. But Since Hatteras and Buxton look more and more like Myrtle Beach every year, it’s fitting that your beaches do too. For those who remember when Highway 12 was built it was in the middle of the Island. The Cape Hatteras lighthouse was located a safe 1,500 feet from the ocean when built. When the first Telegraph lines were run they were in the middle of the island, no one has seen them in 30 years,their stumps used to be seen on the beaches now they are somewhere offshore. Now this new beach is going to give you a what ? 250 feet of new beach !
I understand those of you who have been foolish enough to buy property along the sea shore don’t want to loose or your investment but the ocean tide line is moving west always has been and will not stop. So enjoy the new sand while it’s there but you better be quick In My Opinion anyone owning beach front property in this area would be wise to sell it soon after this project and move to the sound side.
Man loves beaches and therefore it is very understandable he would want to live by one but anything you build on a seashore will not last. Renourishment has been tried from Maine to Mexico on the East Coast. It’s only a temporary fix and has never lasted.
Anyone really interested in knowing the truth should read “Against the Tide” by Cornelia Dean.

Tiderunner - 18-03-’17 09:56

FACT: I watched them do it back in 74 in the Buxton area and north. Most of that sand stuck around for well over 30 years. I think we all know everything is temporary living on Earth.

Ricky - 19-03-’17 13:55

Poof ….just had to be the spoiler eh Tide…LOL Reality sucks , barrier islands move but people just want that little piece of heaven . Having experienced the Nags Head beach upgrade I can attest to a few truths … Fishing will change for a few years , the new beach will be pulled out into the ocean BUT that is exactly the purpose , the waves break farther out limiting damage to dunes and flooding , I disagree with the hard as cement comment and yes shells will take a bit as will the fish and sand fleas in making a come back , but homes , business’s and roadways will be a lot safer . If people are willing to weather the hurricanes , flooding and cost’s to renourish their peace of heaven who has the right to pee on those dreams .

diver531 - 20-03-’17 09:39

If turtle nests can be moved for the beach replenishment why can’t they be moved when in imminent danger?

hatrasfevr - 21-03-’17 07:46
Tim Sacksteder

Lets hope the beach nourishment doesn’t mess up fishing at the point like the Mirlo beach project did to the Rodanthe Pier,the inner slough filled in as the sand moved South.

Tim Sacksteder - 22-03-’17 20:17

For the question about dunes being replaced: The dunes are what caused the problem in the first place. Dunes are not natural and were put in place by the CCC in the 30’s to reduce nuisance flooding. The solution is to let the houses fall and keep retreating.

Surf123 - 27-03-’17 16:08

Waste of taxpayers money just as well throw the money in the ocean and say good bye to it. It would be better spent on schools.

Dan - 20-05-’17 02:59

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