Under the Dome

Beach erosion walls back in play

UPDATED: The phrase “terminal groins” returns to the legislative vocabulary this week.

Lifting the cap on the erosion-control walls that extend from shore into the ocean has been included as a special provision in the budget being worked on by the Senate. Coastal Review Online, a news service of the nonprofit N.C. Coastal Federation conservation advocacy group, reported the development first.

Rep. Pat McElraft, a Republican from Carteret County, told the Coastal Review that the issue arose when budget negotiators discussed the expense of dredging the sand-clogged Oregon Inlet.

Wednesday afternoon, Patrick Gannon of The Insider tweeted that a deal has been reached in budget talks to increase tax dollars for coastal dredging and lift or increase the groins cap.

In 2011, the newly Republican-controlled General Assembly lifted a decades-long ban on the walls and in compromise legislation allowed four to be built if supported by the local community. A groin is under construction at Bald Head Island.

Others are proposed at Ocean Isle Beach and Holden Beach. The U.S Army Corps of Engineers was scheduled to hold a hearing Wednesday on one proposed for Figure Eight Island.

Terminal groins are hardened walls that extend into the ocean perpendicular to the coast to control beach erosion and sand bars. Jetties are built to control shoaling in channels.

Allowing them in North Carolina is controversial. Environmentalists say they don’t work and harm neighboring beaches, while supporters say they protect private property.

Molly Diggins, director of the state chapter of the N.C. Sierra Club, issued a statement calling on the House to resist including terminal groins in the final budget proposal, pointing out it had not been discussed in public this session.

“Adding a provision like this in closed-door budget negotiations keeps the public in the dark about important decisions that are being made about public resources — much less giving the public a say. Such a drastic change in policy affecting our coast should be fully and openly debated.”

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said no permits for terminal groins have been issued. As noted, one is being built at Bald Head Island.