The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) submitted a comment letter Thursday to the Division of Coastal Management (DCM) on Ocean Isle Beach’s application for a terminal groin at Shallotte Inlet. The SELC wrote the comment letter on behalf of the North Carolina Coastal Federation.
In the letter, the SELC argued the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) submitted in support of the terminal groin violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and does not meet and satisfy the requirements of the North Carolina Environmental Policy Act or those of North Carolina General Statute 113A-115.1(e). This statute, part of the state’s Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA), lays out what must be included in an application for a terminal groin.
The SELC also stated the FEIS shows the proposed terminal groin (listed as Alternative 5 in the FEIS) will increase costs for Ocean Isle Beach over the 30-year period. Channel relocation (Alternative 4) is more cost-effective and does not affect wildlife habitat and recreational beaches.
The statute states DCM cannot approve an application for a terminal groin if “considering engineering requirements and all economic costs there is a practicable alternative that would accomplish the overall project purposes with less adverse impact on the public resources.” In this case, channel relocation both costs less than a terminal groin and would have a lower impact on public beaches and wildlife habitat.
The 750-foot terminal groin is supposed to help prevent erosion caused by periodic shifting of Shallotte Inlet, but it would also cause even more erosion in the area east of the groin and eventually eliminate the beach in that area. The FEIS included with the application does not sufficiently address these indirect effects. DCM also cannot approve permits that “jeopardize the public rights or interests” in public trust waters, which includes public beach access.
Since the beginning of this project, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has expressed its opposition to the terminal groin because of its effect on wildlife habitat, especially for nesting sea turtles and migratory birds.
The letter argues Alternative 4 is the best option to reduce erosion, provide long-term property protection while maintaining the town’s tax base, ensure recreational beaches still exist and protect wildlife habitat — all of which are listed in the FEIS as the “purpose and need” for taking action near Shallotte Inlet.
The North Carolina Coastal Federation opposes hardened structures, including terminal groins, for beach and inlet management. In addition to opposing the proposed terminal groin at Ocean Isle Beach, it is also actively opposing terminal groins at Holden Beach and Figure Eight Island.
A decision on the submitted application should be released after DCM reviews the comments.
If you have questions or want more information, please contact coastal advocate Mike Giles at (910) 509-2838 or email Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org.