N.C. Coastal Resources Commission Votes on Terminal Groin Recommendations
The N.C. Coastal Resources Commission in March voted 8-5 to recommend specific considerations that must be met if the N.C. General Assembly should desire to lift some of the current limitations on permanent erosion control structures on North Carolina’s ocean and inlet shorelines.
The recommendation was made based on the commission’s recent study of the feasibility and advisability of the use of a terminal groin as an erosion control structure in coastal North Carolina. The study was mandated by Session Law 2009-479, which required the CRC to conduct the study and present a report and recommendations to the Environmental Review Commission and the General Assembly by April 1, 2010. The final study report is available on DCM’s website at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/cm/final-terminal-groin-study-report.
The current law, which bans hardened structures on North Carolina’s oceanfront, with three limited exceptions, remains in place until and unless action is taken by the N.C. General Assembly. The General Assembly is expected to address terminal groins during the 2010 short session.
The CRC’s recommendation reads as follows:
The General Assembly directed the CRC to conduct a study on the feasibility and advisability of the use of terminal groins as an erosion control device. The study determined that terminal groins, in combination with beach nourishment, can be effective at controlling erosion at the end of barrier islands. The individuality of inlets necessitates site specific analysis. The study findings were mixed regarding the effects of terminal groins on wildlife habitat and marine resources. If it is the desire of the General Assembly to lift some of the limitations specific to terminal groins, due to the individual nature of inlets, the following factors must be effectively met:
In light of the current policy favoring a non-structural approach to erosion control, the use of a terminal groin, should be allowed only after all other non-structural erosion control responses, including relocation of threatened structures, are found to be impracticable.
The effects of a terminal groin on adjacent beaches are variable and a primary concern. Any use of such a structure should include siting and construction that avoids interruption of the natural sand movement to downdrift beaches.
The nature of terminal groins and the potential effects on coastal resources and adjacent properties necessitate a full environmental review. Any proposal for the construction of a terminal groin should be accompanied by an environmental impact statement that meets the requirements of the N.C. Environmental Policy Act, or SEPA, (NC G.S. 113-4).
To ensure the adequacy of compliance with SEPA and the protection of the public interest, third-party review of all environmental documents should be required. The cost of third-party review should be borne by those responsible for the project. This third-party review should include all design, construction, maintenance and removal criteria.
Since a terminal groin may impact properties well beyond those adjacent to the structure, notification of property owners in areas with the potential to be affected by the terminal groin should be required. This notification should include all aspects of the project likely to affect the adjacent shoreline, including construction, maintenance and mitigation activities as well as post-construction effects.
As the post-construction effects of a terminal groin on coastal resources and adjacent properties are difficult to predict, financial assurance in the form of a bond, insurance policy, escrow account or other financial instrument should be required to cover the cost of removing the terminal groin and any restoration of adjacent beaches. Financial assurance should also be required for the long-term maintenance of the structure including beach nourishment activities. (Legislative authorization for requiring financial assurance would be necessary).
The use of a terminal groin would need an adequate monitoring program to ensure that the effects on coastal resources and adjacent properties do not exceed what would be anticipated in the environmental documents. All monitoring of impacts of a terminal groin on coastal resources and adjoining properties should be accomplished by a third-party with all cost borne by those responsible for the project.
As terminal groins are typically used in combination with a long-term shoreline management program, any proposal for use of a terminal groin in North Carolina should be part of a large-scale beach fill project, including subsequent maintenance necessary to achieve a design life of no less than 25 years.