Sandbags for Temporary Erosion Control

Sandbags are allowed (with the proper permit) to temporarily protect imminently threatened oceanfront structures. A structure is considered threatened when the erosion escarpment is less than 20 feet from a building's foundation (see Figure 4.17A).

Most sandbag installation can be authorized with a general permit.

Dune crossovers, pools, parking lots, decks, tennis courts and similar structures don't qualify as threatened structures. Roads are considered structures, and septic systems that currently are serving a building also qualify for sandbag protection.

Figure 4.17

Sandbags are allowed only on a temporary basis. If left in place permanently, sandbags act as hard structures, and can cause the same types of damage to the beach as seawalls.

To prevent that damage, the Coastal Resources Commission sets specific limits on sandbag use:

    • Two years for buildings 5,000 square feet or smaller;

    • Five years for buildings larger than 5,000 square feet.

    • Five years for properties located in a community that is actively pursuing a beach nourishment project.

    • Eight years for properties located in an Inlet Hazard Area adjacent to an inlet for which a community is actively pursuing an inlet relocation project.

    • Only one sandbag permit may be issued for the life of your property, even if the property changes ownership, unless the structure is located in an Inlet Hazard Area and in a community that is actively pursuing an inlet relocation project.

    • Existing sandbag structures located in Inlet Hazard Areas may be eligible for an additional eight-year permit extension provided the structure is still imminently threatened.

    Sandbags and other temporary oceanfront erosion controls must meet CAMA's general rules for the ocean hazard AEC, as well as the following standards {15A NCAC 7H Section .0308(a)}:

    Figure 4.18

    • Sandbags must be placed above the normal high water mark and parallel to the shore.

    • Sandbag structures can't extend more than 20 feet past the sides of the protected structure (see Figure 4.18).

    • Sandbag structures cannot be more than 6 feet tall, and their base width (measured from the oceanward side to the landward side) cannot be greater than 20 feet (see Figure 4.17B ).

    • The landward side of the sandbag structure must not be more than 20 feet seaward of the structure it protects.

    • Sandbags used to construct temporary erosion-control structures must be tan. Each bag must be 3 to 5 feet wide and 7 to 15 feet long when measured flat.

    • You may maintain your sandbag structure for the life of your permit provided you don't make the structure any larger.

    • If your sandbags are determined to be unnecessary because of the relocation or removal of the threatened structure, they must be removed within 30 days.

    • If sandbags are buried and covered with vegetation that has spread enough to be considered natural, the sandbags may remain in place.