Growth by the Grain: Outer Banks Beach Nourishment Projects Begin This Summer

By Beth P. Storie | Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Memorial Day weekend kicks off beach season, and on the Outer Banks we're about to get better stretches of beach to enjoy. Read on to find out about plans to nourish more than 21 miles of Dare County beaches this summer.

Those of you who live here or are seasoned visitors know that these barrier islands, while being so beautiful, are truly very fragile. There are places on the Outer Banks that are less than a mile across from sound to ocean. And unfortunately, due to storms, erosion and ocean overwash, many beaches are narrower than they were a decade ago. 

This situation puts roadways – such as N.C. Highway 12 – and structures at risk, so beach nourishment is an effective way to mitigate the problems that are caused by the eroding shoreline. Not only does widening the beach help protect Dare County’s critical coastal infrastructure from overwash and erosion, but it also helps to ensure that roadways remain open and accessible for everyone from residents and visitors going about their daily business to first responders performing emergency assistance and crews providing essential services such as medical care and trash collection.

Plus, that wider beach provides a bigger buffer between the Atlantic Ocean and the thousands of oceanfront homes that residents and visitors depend on as either their year-round home or their dream vacation spot, and it also creates a wider and prettier beach for everyone to enjoy.

This summer, beginning in mid-May and scheduled to be completed in September, many of the beaches along the Outer Banks – from the towns of Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head to the villages of Avon and Buxton on Hatteras Island – will be widened as beach nourishment projects are completed. The amount of time it will take to complete each individual project varies from 20 days to 60 days or more depending upon the scope of the work as well as a variety of additional factors that can impact the timing of staging and the construction start dates that are currently projected for each area.

Dredging for the upcoming beach nourishment projects throughout Dare County is scheduled to begin in the spring; however, the exact dates that the actual construction will start in specific locations along the Outer Banks will vary, according to Dorothy Hester, public information officer for Dare County. 

“Once the contractors have determined the exact dates and locations where dredging will take place and the shoreline will be nourished, that information, as well as progress updates, will be communicated to the public on,” says Hester. “It’s also important to note that these schedules are subject to change due to inclement weather, sea conditions, equipment maintenance or repairs and dredge refueling needs.” 

What does beach nourishment mean to you and the stretch of beach you may call home either permanently or for a week? Since Dare County and the towns are now quite familiar with this type of work, and since beach nourishment has been done before, the amount of disruption you will experience should only last a few days, and even then it won’t be completely intrusive. 

Typically, 1,000 feet of oceanfront are tackled at a time, so you will see earth-moving equipment on the beach and the dredge far off the shoreline during that time. But the pipelines will have sand ramps over them, making it safe and easy to move slightly north or south along the beach.

One frequently asked question is where all of the sand that is used to widen the beach comes from. During beach nourishment, you’ll notice the offshore dredge that pumps sand from an offshore borrow site located along the ocean floor onto the existing shoreline in order to widen it.

Another common question is around concerns for the sand fleas and other small creatures that live in the sand. The life cycle for these organisms is quite short, so they are able to replenish the population in a short time.  

Beachgoers also want to know why nourishment occurs in the summer months, when the beaches are the most crowded. Dare County explains it this way: "While construction along the beach during the summer may seem like an awfully inconvenient time, it is the only time contractors are able to complete these projects in order to ensure the safety of the workers involved. Dredging operations typically take place in the summer months because the storms that frequently affect the area in late fall, winter and early spring can cause dangerous conditions for the crews who are tasked with performing dredging operations along the Outer Banks coastline."

All in all, while we might wish that beach nourishment wasn’t a necessary thing for “our” oceanfront, the truth is that without this beach-saving action, our Outer Banks experience might be vastly impacted. 

For detailed information on every aspect of 2022’s beach nourishment schedule, as well as a slew of informative FAQs, go to

Where and When Will Beach Nourishment Take Place?

Town of Duck

Approximately 1.6 miles from the Army Corps Pier to North Skimmer Way

Estimated construction start date: mid-September

Estimated length of project: 25 to 30 days

Town of Southern Shores

Approximately 3.8 miles from the Duck/Southern Shores town line to the Southern Shores/Kitty Hawk town line

Estimated construction start date: Early August

Estimated length of project: 35 to 40 days

Town of Kitty Hawk

Approximately 3.7 miles from the Southern Shores/Kitty Hawk town line to the Kitty Hawk/Kill Devil Hills town line

Estimated construction start date: Early July

Estimated length of project: 30 to 35 days

Town of Kill Devil Hills

Approximately 2.58 miles from the Kitty Hawk/Kill Devil Hills town line to 270 feet north of Prospect Avenue

Estimated construction start date: Mid-June

Estimated length of project: 25 to 35 days

Town of Nags Head

Approximately 4.45 miles from 8031 S. Oregon Inlet Road to 10435 S. Oregon Inlet Road

Estimated construction start date: Early August

Estimated length of project: 30 days

Hatteras Island: Avon

Approximately 2.5 miles from 3,000 feet north of Avon Pier at Due East Road to the National Park Service Station/Avon boundary

Estimated construction start date: Mid-June

Estimated length of project: 40 to 60 days

Hatteras Island: Buxton

Approximately 2.9 miles from the Haulover Day Use Area to the oceanfront groin at Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Estimated construction start date: July 

Estimated length of project: 40 to 60 days

Photos courtesy of More Beach to Love project.

About the Author Beth P. Storie
Beth Storie first came to the Outer Banks for the summer of 1976. She fell in love with the area and returned for good three years later. She and her husband published the national guidebook series, The Insiders' Guides, for more than 20 years and now are building OneBoat guides into another national brand. After spending time in many dozens of cities around the country, she absolutely believes that her hometown of Manteo is the best place on earth, especially when her two children, six cats and one dog are there too.