Town of Topsail Beach partners with North Carolina Coastal Federation on sound side living shoreline projects

Rocky Mount Ave. Living Shoreline

A living shoreline project will be at Rocky Mount Ave. to protect the eroding marsh, protect clean water, and restore oyster habitat.

The Town of Topsail Beach is partnering with the North Carolina Coastal Federation to install four living shoreline demonstration projects to reduce sound side erosion and maintain valuable fisheries habitat.

Wrapping up a $26 million post- Hurricane Florence storm damage reduction project that includes oceanfront beach nourishment and dune restoration, and deepening of the inlet and channel waterway, the Town is now poised to create storm resiliency projects along some of the island’s sound side properties. The Town will use a portion of a $5 million state grant provided in 2019 through Senate Bill 95, granting ~ $1.6 million equally among Topsail Beach, Surf City, and North Topsail Beach to complete the living shoreline projects.

“We are very grateful for the opportunity to be proactive in creating island-wide readiness and resiliency projects and address some long-standing issues of flooding and shoreline erosion”, said Mike Rose, Town Manager for Topsail Beach. “We’ve worked very hard on our ocean-side projects, and we are very excited to partner with the federation to focus some attention and efforts on the other side of our island.”

The Town has contracted with the Federation to oversee the selection, design, and installation of four demonstration living shoreline projects along Banks Channel, with the first project planned for properties near the sound side public access at Rocky Mount Ave.  Additional sites will be selected from suitable sound side properties during the remainder of 2021.


Oyster Bag Living Shoreline

Oyster bag living shorelines effectively stabilize eroding shorelines and also preserve the coastal environment.
Photo By: Restoration Systems LLC

Living shoreline projects can include a range of techniques that reduce the impact of waves by using more natural approaches like restored salt marsh and oyster reefs, offering an effective and environmentally friendly solution to estuarine shoreline erosion. Recently, the N.C. Division of Coastal Management, in coordination with other state and federal agencies, revised the Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA) General Permit for marsh sills. The amended General Permit now makes the process of obtaining a living shoreline permit quicker and simpler. For more information on the revised General Permit click here.

Tracy Skrabal, a coastal scientist with the Federation, said that the goal of the project is to install at least three different living shoreline designs, such as a vertical wall or oyster bag sill, or one of several innovative approaches. “By design, living shoreline projects restore or protect our valuable salt marshes, which is often not possible with the use of traditional bulkheads and rip rap,” she said. “These hardened structures can increase the erosion and loss of these wetlands and shallow areas. The purpose here is not to just build four projects, but to use this as a training tool and demonstration for property owners, marine contractors, and other shoreline professionals.

Town Manager Mike Rose adds “We want people to understand that we can affordably protect against erosion, increase the resiliency of these shorelines during hurricanes and other storms, and protect our ecosystems and estuarine water quality as well.”

The first living shoreline project included the construction of an oyster bag sill to provide erosion control and serve as a living reef for new oysters. The shoreline landward of the oyster bag structures was restored with marsh grass that provides critical habitat for fish and other estuarine animals. The project includes an opening to allow for continued access to the water for canoes, kayaks, etc. The construction of the first project was completed in the late spring of 2021.  

The second living shoreline project was completed in fall 2021 and included the construction of a free-standing vertical walled sill, which is installed channelward of an eroding coastal marsh. The project was constructed by Ennett Marine Construction and is located along the shoreline of Banks Channel at the end of Haywood Avenue.


Resilient Shorelines

You can help make a difference for our coast—one living shoreline at a time!