So What's Up With Beach Nourishment?

By Hannah Lee Leidy | Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Two years ago it was shark attacks. Last summer it was Pokémon GO! On the Outer Banks today, the current beach nourishment projects dominate the talk of the town. Maybe you’ve even seen the action during a trip to the northern towns’ beaches this summer: Pumps spurting black sand onto the beaches, bulldozers pushing it here and there, the orange netting around construction sites. Just weeks ago, a nice visitor from Washington, D.C., and I had a discussion about the project. He, like many others, asked a fair question: What’s the deal with this whole beach nourishment thing and what does that mean?

Photo: Town of Duck Facebook

Have you ever seen an aerial shot of the Outer Banks? It’s a pearl-like string of barrier islands delicately lining North Carolina’s coast. These thin islands face the constant brunt of waves, storm surges and sea level rise. Plus the islands are basically piles of sand, and sand naturally moves and shifts. This puts properties, communities and individuals at risk, and that's where beach nourishment comes in. This summer’s finished and current beach nourishment projects in Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and Buxton intend to widen these towns’ diminishing shorelines in efforts of fighting erosion and protecting against future storms — and to maintain a nice, wide beach for all the summer visitors. Attractive beaches are, after all, why everyone comes here.

Beach nourishment works by pumping sand from the ocean floor onto the beach then spreading it to increase the amount of the land on the shore. At first glance beach nourishment raises concerns for some people. After all, people operating construction equipment and loud machinery on the untouched beach seems like a quintessential Carl Hiaasen plot device. But the projects tend to move quickly when they go as scheduled and never stay active in one location for too long. This means that the work you see isn’t for the long-term but the benefits are.

So what does beach nourishment mean for vacationers and other beachgoers this summer? It can be inconvenient, but it won’t change anyone’s plans too much. The worst-case scenario? You may not be able to access your preferred beach access one week, and you’ll have to find a temporary alternative. Or your oceanfront cottage may overlook one of the active pumping sites. Obviously, entering or disturbing the active dredging and pumping sites is off-limits.

On the Outer Banks this week, here are the beach nourishment projects you can expect to find:

Kitty Hawk: The town’s pumping projects have paused upon finishing the beach nourishment between the town’s southern border to just south of Kitty Hawk Road. The town’s remaining projects will commence after the beach nourishment in Kill Devil Hills is completed.

Kill Devil Hills: The beach nourishment project between Third and Fourth Streets is in the process of wrapping up this week, and as a result, beachgoers should expect to find the public beach access at Fifth Street closed. Those interested in diving at the Triangle Wrecks site might reconsider their choice in location. The pumping crews are clearing pipelines from the area, which may make boat traffic heavy for a few days. A pump site at the beach around Helga Street will also become active this week and move south toward the landing site just beyond Avalon Pier.

Buxton: The current beach nourishment project had been put on hold due to unsafe water conditions affecting the pump site. The dredge has returned to operation this week, and construction will continue moving northward.

Curious about the upcoming plans for the beach nourishment projects? Visit More Beach to Love to learn more about beach nourishment and its future plans. 

Now it’s time to check out what else is coming up this week on the Outer Banks.

Carolina Boat Builders Tournament

Don’t let the name confuse you — this tournament is one of fishing prowess and not boat-building abilities. Anglers of all skill levels come out for this three-day Outer Banks fishing event to partake in the competition just as much as the fun. The tournament runs from Thursday through Saturday, but the event begins with registration and cocktails on Wednesday night at Pirate’s Cove Marina in Manteo. Lines go in the water daily between 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Return to the Pirate’s Cove at 6 p.m. for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres followed by dinner provided by local Outer Banks eateries. The awards banquet will be held on Saturday evening to recognize the participants from various categories. Register online or at the opening event on Wednesday night.

Photo: Dare County Boat Builders Foundation Facebook

Light Up the Night

Try a standup paddleboard experience that is truly unforgettable with Kitty Hawk Kites’s Light Up the Night event at Waves Village Watersports Resort. Kitty Hawk Kites is breaking out its NOCQUA gear that lets you enjoy your favorite watersports equipment in the dark. Just strap a NOCQUA light to the bottom of your paddleboard, kayak or anything else that enters your imagination and enjoy the rhythm of the waves from your illuminated water vehicle. On land you can check out Kitty Hawk Kites’s light-up toys and games and kick back for an outdoor movie screening. This event will be held on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

The Mystery of the Lost Colony Comes to Duck

The Mystery of the Lost Colony You’re probably familiar with the beloved production of The Lost Colony, but perhaps you can’t seem to find the time to make it to Roanoke Island for one of the shows. If you’re in the northern part of the Outer Banks, you’re in luck. The kid-friendly spin-off, The Mystery of the Lost Colony, will be performed at the Town of Duck Amphitheater on Tuesday and Wednesday at 10 a.m. Thanks to sponsor Carolina Designs, both shows are free and open to the public. This show teaches young audiences about our nation's history and makes them part of the production too.  Photo: The Lost Colony Facebook

For more activities and child-friendly fun, check out our Daytime listings. And if you're in the mood for dancing or live music, our Nightlife listings give you the who, what, when and where of all that's happening on the Outer Banks. 

About the Author Hannah Lee Leidy
Hannah Lee is a fiction and creative nonfiction writer living on the Outer Banks. She graduated from Kenyon College in Ohio with a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. Traveling is her passion, but nowhere ever feels as much like home as the Outer Banks. When not planning her next trip or adventure, Hannah Lee loves aimless drives down the Beach Road, spending copious amounts of time in coffee shops and reading every short story collection she gets her hands on.