Press Release | August 14, 2017

Corps’ Permit For Ocean Isle Beach Terminal Groin Project Challenged for Flawed Analysis

Chapel Hill, N.C – The Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of Audubon North Carolina, today challenged in federal court the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ approval of a terminal groin for Ocean Isle Beach. The lawsuit claims that the Corps failed to objectively evaluate alternatives to the terminal groin, including those that would be less costly to Ocean Isle residents and less destructive to the coast. 

Filed in the United States Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, the lawsuit describes the Corps’ pre-ordained selection of a terminal groin before consideration of other alternatives, use of unreliable erosion modeling, and elimination of alternative approaches that would be cheaper for the town, would adequately protect vulnerable properties, and maintain wildlife habitat on the east end of Ocean Isle. 

“The terminal groin at Ocean Isle is bad for taxpayers, wildlife and everyone who loves to visit this special place on North Carolina’s coast,” said Heather Hahn, executive director of Audubon North Carolina.  “Fortunately it isn’t necessary.  There are more effective ways to manage erosion– options that would protect threatened properties, cost residents less money, and work with nature, rather than against it.”

The proposed terminal groin would be particularly devastating to the undeveloped, unspoiled refuge on the island’s east end.  This unique area has long been a haven for boaters, families and wildlife alike – each drawn by the peace and tranquility offered by this undeveloped area of shoreline. It also offers a special place where birds can eat, rest, and nest.

“We’re in court because the Corps failed to fairly consider alternatives that would cost Ocean Isle less, manage erosion, and protect the natural beach on the east end of the island when it approved this destructive project,” said Geoff Gisler, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center.  “Federal law requires the Corps to choose the least destructive alternative; with the terminal groin, it approved the most destructive.”  

Terminal groins, or rock walls built across the beach into the ocean, were prohibited on North Carolina’s coast for more than 30 years because they unnaturally trap sand in one location—robbing nearby beaches of sand and increasing erosion elsewhere. The terminal groin proposed for Ocean Isle Beach would be no different – an expensive, destructive project with little overall benefit to the town and surrounding communities.

In approving the terminal groin, the lawsuit claims the Corps violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act.


About the Southern Environmental Law Center:
The Southern Environmental Law Center is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. With nine offices across the region (Charlottesville, VA; Chapel Hill, NC; Atlanta, GA; Charleston, SC; Washington, DC; Birmingham, AL; Nashville, TN; Asheville, NC; and Richmond, VA), SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect the South’s natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region.    
About Audubon North Carolina:
With over a century of conservation history in North Carolina, Audubon strives to conserve and restore the habitats we share with all wildlife, focusing on the needs of birds. Audubon North Carolina achieves its mission through a blend of science-based research and conservation, education and outreach, and advocacy. Audubon North Carolina has offices in Corolla, Boone, Wilmington and Chapel Hill. Learn more at  

Are you a reporter and would like more information? Please visit our press contact page for a full list of SELC’s press contacts.

Press Contacts

Kathleen Sullivan

Senior Communications Manager (NC)

Phone: 919-945-7106
Email: [email protected]