Oceanfront Erosion Response

Erosion is a fact of life in North Carolina's oceanfront communities: Nothing can prevent it. To protect your development from erosion, you should place your new buildings or developments as far back from the beach as possible. 

But new buildings aren't the only ones at risk. Many existing buildings may become threatened by the forces of wind and water. Recognizing that people cannot prevent erosion – they can only respond to it – the Coastal Resources Commission allows two methods of erosion response: moving buildings out of the way, or replenishing the beach's supply of sand. 

The CRC does not generally allow permanent stabilization of the ocean shoreline, because structures such as bulkheads, seawalls, jetties and groins interrupt natural sand migration patterns and can increase erosion at nearby properties. However, in 2011, the N.C. General Assembly passed legislation to allow up to four terminal groins to be built in North Carolina inlets.

Any oceanfront erosion protection measure must meet CAMA's general rules for development in ocean hazard AECs as well as the following specific standards {15A NCAC 7H Section .0308(a)}:

    • Permanent erosion-control structures, such as seawalls, groins and revetments, are generally prohibited.

    • Building relocation and beach nourishment are preferred responses to erosion.

    • Comprehensive shoreline management is preferred over small-scale projects. Erosion management measures are more successful when coordinated over a large stretch of shoreline rather than at scattered, individual sites.

    • Rules governing erosion response apply to all oceanfront property.

    • Erosion-control measures that interfere with public beach access are prohibited.

    • All erosion-response projects must demonstrate sound engineering practices.

    • Unless appropriate mitigation is incorporated into your project plan, erosion-response projects will not be permitted in areas that provide substantial habitat for important wildlife.

    • Your project must be timed to cause the least possible damage to biological processes. Certain times of year and day are important for breeding, spawning, nesting and feeding cycles of shorebirds, sea turtles and other species. Your project must accommodate these cycles in order to protect North Carolina's wildlife.

    • You must notify all adjacent property owners of your proposed project. No permit will be issued until the property owners have signed the notice form or until a reasonable effort has been made to contact them by certified mail.

    • All exposed remnants and debris from failed erosion-control structures must be removed before beginning any erosion-response project.

    Permanent erosion-control structures that normally are prohibited may be permitted in certain cases for public projects, for example: to protect a bridge that provides the only existing road access to a substantial barrier island population, is vital to public safety and is threatened by erosion, or is one of the four terminal groin structures allowed by the 2011 legislation.