The dynamic of beach re-nourishment


NORTH CAROLINA (WOWK) – The power of wind and waves and water was never more evident than right here along the North Carolina seacoast, on the beaches of Carteret County during Hurricane Florence in 2018.

Millions of cubic yards of sand just eroded and washed right back out to the ocean which damaged not only the environment but also the economy which is why there’s such a big effort to replenish, restore and renourish these beaches.

“Florence was our storm of record by just about any metrics possible,” Greg “Rudi” Rudolph said.

Rudolph is with the Carteret County Shore Protection Office. It’s his job to help rebuild the beaches and the dunes.

“It’s easily the most volume of sand that’s ever been removed from the island,” Rudolph said. “We lost about 3 million cubic yards of sand across 20 miles of the island.”

To put that in perspective, that’s a quarter million dump trucks of sand that hold 12 cubic yards.

Hauling sand in is not an option. So the county hired a crew that specializes in beach re-nourishment using some of the sand that was lost and some from an underwater stockpile the county uses that gets taken from dredging the harbor in nearby Morehead City.

The sand is pumped from barges onto the beach through a series of pipes then contoured with bulldozers. It’s an impressive visual and the work gets done during the cold season when tourists aren’t around.

“For the beaches, it kind of wiped out the dunes that you see behind me here … So our job was to pump up the volume of sand that we lost during Florence and in that process kind of reconfigure putting in a brand new dune,” Rudolph said. “To fortify the dune we like to plant it.”

They plant the dune mainly with sea oats … millions of them

” … and then you’ll see a brand new chute pop put in the middle in a day or two and then in about a year and a half they’ll actually shoot up the actual sea oat that people (can) associate with,” Rudolph said.

One year later, the plantings look like regular sea oats but they still have room to fill in. However, sea oats do “grab sand” from the wind and allow it to collect around the base of their stems. The Shore Protection Office would like to see all 20 miles come back to a mature look, providing more shoreline protection from erosion.

“Sand is obviously moving up and down the profile every year and it doesn’t move a lot unless there’s a Florence, so we can monitor that and try to set up our targets of how much volume if the system is good versus bad,” says Rudolph.

So the moving of the sand and the planting is reaching conclusion with one more phase to go in the tourist off-season, so now it’s a matter of time and nature cooperating to keep building back what nature also took away.

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