North Carolina has long had one of the strictest coastal management laws limiting the use of hardened structures on the beach for erosion protection. Unfortunately their legislature recently moved to allow the construction of terminal groins to try to control sand movements near tidal inlets. There are competing bills in the House and Senate which would allow up to 3 structures or allow construction on both sides of every inlet, respectively. A small group is now working in a "conference committee" to try to work out their differences.
What NC is calling "terminal groins" are essentially jetties placed alongside a tidal inlet to try to capture sand that is moving down the coast and keep it from flowing into the inlet. Of course if you trap sand on one side of the inlet, there will invariably be increased erosion on the other side and on downdrift beaches. This has the potential to set up a chain reaction of more structures and the need for expensive beach fill (sand dumping) projects when houses down the coast become threatened by erosion.
You can see from this example in New Jersey how you can quickly lose the natural beauty of beaches when you begin to build groins.
In recent years coastal scientists in NC have come out strongly against these terminal groins: "Any coastal structure designed to trap or hold sand in one location will, without question, deprive another area of that sand. In simple terms, any structure (including terminal groins) that traps sand will cause erosion elsewhere. Permitting the construction of terminal groins will harm the coast and place downdrift property at risk." - excerpt from statement by 10 prominent NC coastal scientists, as reported in the State of the Beach report for North Carolina.
We've set up an action alert for NC residents to send a letter to the legislature, so please let them know that we don't need or want new hard structures on NC beaches. And to learn more about why hard structures do not belong on beaches visit Beachapedia, our coastal knowledge resource.