Lumina News: Experts offer insight on Figure Eight terminal groin

This article appeared in Lumina News.

Update: The event has been rescheduled for Saturday, March 5 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Poplar Grove Plantation due to weather concerns for original Jan. 23 scheduled date.

Environmental groups are sponsoring a March 5 forum to inform the public about the consequences of building a proposed 1,200-foot jetty-like structure called a terminal groin at Figure Eight Island’s north end to combat erosion caused by Rich Inlet’s northern migration.

During the event, which is moderated by N.C. Coastal Federation coastal advocate Mike Giles, the public is invited to engage in a panel discussion with geology and environmental experts.

Director of Audubon North Carolina Walker Golder will offer insight on the threatened bird species that nest on Figure Eight’s north end, coastal geologist Dr. Stan Riggs will speak to the geology of Rich Inlet, coastal geology professor Dr. Robert Young will talk about the effects of coastal engineering projects and Southern Environmental Law Center director Derb Carter J.D. will discuss the effectiveness of models in predicting a terminal groin’s impacts.

Giles said the forum is open to citizens on both sides of the controversial proposal.

Those against the proposed terminal groin believe it would cause erosion at Figure Eight Island’s north end, disrupting the inlet’s natural movement and destroying the habitat of endangered bird species that nest there.

There are too many potential consequences, Giles said, for a project that isn’t even necessary.

The Figure Eight Homeowners Association started applying for the terminal groin permit several years ago when the inlet’s southern migration threatened 19 homes at the island’s north end. But since then, the inlet has shifted back north.

“A terminal groin is not needed,” Giles emphasized. “There is no erosion. The sandy spit has come back, so the modeling and proposal put forward is for an island that currently does not exist.”

There are less permanent methods of controlling the inlet’s periodic shift, Giles said, like sandbags, which the island’s homeowners association used previously, and dredging, which it was considering before terminal groins became legal in North Carolina in 2011.

But Figure Eight Homeowners’ Association administer David Kellam argued a terminal groin would cause less loss of habitat at Figure Eight’s north end than the 2,200-foot sandbag wall that existed there previously. While the inlet’s recent northern movement has mitigated the need for such a structure now, Kellam said the inlet’s migration back south is inevitable.

And, contrary to environmentalists’ claims, Kellam said the terminal groin would not cause the inlet to shift south.

The Army Corps of Engineers is currently reviewing the required study submitted by Figure Eight outlining potential benefits and environmental consequences, and it could be just months from deciding whether to issue the permit, Kellam said.

Even if the Corps issues the permit, the final decision on whether to build lies with the Figure Eight homeowners, because they are funding the project. Kellam estimated the terminal groin would cost between $2 million–$4 million, but based on informal meetings, he said the homeowners supported the project as part of a long-term inlet management plan.

Both advocates and opponents of the terminal groin use science, modeling and similar terminal groin projects to defend their stance, but the Corps’ environmental study, on which it bases its final decision, is unbiased, Kellam said. Those both for and against the groin will be able to comment on the environmental impact study during a public hearing after it is released.

To register for the March 5 forum visit www.saverichinlet.org.