Nags Head beach widening wraps, but expect changes as sand moves around naturally

A tidal pool formed along one stretch of Nags Head beach on August 9, 2019, when there are high waves and tides. The Town of Nags Head says it's just a natural part of the process. [photo courtesy Facebook]

The main part of the Nags Head beach renourishment project came to a close over the weekend, as the final yards of sand were pumped on to a stretch off South Nags Head right around the expected date.

Sand pumping operations were completed early on Sunday morning in the 8200 block of South Old Oregon Inlet Road near Mile Post 17.

“We are obviously glad to have this project completely buttoned up, and to have the additional protection it affords, before the onset of any fall storms,” said Nags Head Mayor Ben Cahoon.

The $42.7 million project began in early May, and was projected at the time to be finished before the end of the summer season.

Good weather through much of the summer and minimal mechanical issues experienced by the company running the project helped hit the preferred target date.

“We’re also happy with how smoothly sand placement went this summmer,” Cahoon said. “That’s a tribute to our contractor, Great Lakes Dock and Dredge, to consultant Coastal Science and Enginnering and to our town staff.”

“Our staff did a great job planning, monitoring and communicating to the public,” Cahoon added.

Communication before, during and after this latest project by Nags Head’s town staff has been coordinated by Public Information Officer Roberta Thuman.

That included the latest detailed update on Monday via email that specified the changes on the way with the dry sand currently visible will start moving around with the help of natural processes in the weeks and months ahead.

Those changes were also prevalent in the first year after the initial beach nourishment project in 2011.

“Nourishment projects are designed and constructed to take advantage of the natural forces, such as waves and currents, to move sand offshore,” Thuman said.

“This process results in a natural sloping beach within the littoral zone, the area between the low and high tide lines, and is referred to as profile equilibration, or profile adjustment,” Thuman added.

Profile equilibration typically occurs within 12 months following sand placement depending on storms, and dramatically decreases the width of dry beach from the very wide beach observed immediately after nourishment.

“This decrease in beach width is often misunderstood as the failure of the beach nourishment project,” Thuman said.

Experts and officials from around the country have hailed Nags Head and Dare County as a model for both how to fund beach widening, and for well many of the projects conducted over the last decade have protected beachfront properties from overwash and erosion.

Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills are currently in the planning stages for a renourishment project that could come as early as next year.

Dare County is working towards another widening of the Buxton beach that will include rehabilitating the groins off the old Coast Guard housing complex and former site of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

There has also been discussions of a potential project in the future along the rapidly eroding Kinnakeet Shores beach in Avon.

The Gulfstream public beach access just south of Jennette’s Pier near Mile Post 16.5 is closed to vehicles, but not pedestrians, until August 27 while Great Lakes Dock and Dredge removes their equipment from the beach.

The installation of sand fencing and sea oats, which can withstand arid conditions, is still taking place in Nags Head’s south end.

The Juncos Street public beach access is still being used by the sand fencing/sprigging contractor, but the access remains open to the public.

The Forrest Street public beach access near Mile Post 15.5 remains closed to parking, while it is still open to pedestrians.

About Sam Walker 333 Articles
Sam Walker is news director for OBXToday.com, Beach 104, 99.1 The Sound, 94.5 WCMS and Classic Rock 92.3. Reach him at sam@obxtoday.com

1 Comment

  1. Great article!

    Do you have information about the Rodanthe beaches? Are they ever going to be included? They have had to close part of Ocean Drive due to beach erosion and several homes have been damaged/impacted, as well.

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