Legislature taking a gamble on the coastline

July 11, 2013 

Messing around with sound environmental rules designed to protect one of North Carolina’s most valuable resources – its fragile coastline – is akin to juggling with Grandma’s china. Something is going to get broken.

In 1985, the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission put in a ban on jetties and groins, hard structures put off the coastline to “stabilize” beaches. But while they trap sand, they can cause deterioration of other beach areas adjacent or down the coast. That leads people and communities in those areas to want jetties and groins of their own. The results of that can be seen on New Jersey beaches, where there are jetties and groins all up and down the coastline.

The legislature, led by Republicans, lifted the ban in 2011, approving four pilot projects. But the state Senate this year passed a bill that would allow unlimited groins on the entire coastline. In the process, the GOP-led Senate removed taxpayer protections that required that local funding for the structures be approved by a local referendum and that state funding go on a state referendum.

House members hesitated, and now a compromise bill in that chamber would keep the cap, having just four pilot groin projects, and it would preserve the taxpayer protections. But it streamlines the permitting process.

Let’s hope the Senate won’t agree and that this idea with die, for it is a bad idea indeed. Coastal communities, developers and private homeowners want to save their property first, which is understandable, but there’s a reason that one phrase used to describe an impossible goal is that one could sooner stem the ocean’s tide. Efforts to manipulate the coastline won’t work in the long run and can do damage.

Leave the china in the cupboard, and let the coastline be.

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