Press Release | November 18, 2016

Figure Eight Island Homeowners Reject Shoreline Hardening

Chapel Hill, N.C.—The Figure Eight Island Homeowners Association Board of Directors announced yesterday that its membership has denied a proposal to build a terminal groin at the north end of the island, a project that would have likely increased erosion on other parts of the island.

The proposed project would have included a $7.5 million groin made of sheet metal and large boulders and would have required regular beach nourishment. The Homeowners Association Board has been pursuing the costly project for more than five years even though no oceanfront houses are threatened by erosion. Conservation groups have argued for years that the outstanding wildlife habitat and recreational beach at Rich Inlet is far too valuable to destroy with the proposed groin and that much less destructive, and cheaper, alternatives are available.

“The homeowners have made a decision that is not only better for the environment, it’s better for their pocketbooks,” said Geoff Gisler, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Rich Inlet is one of the most stable inlets in North Carolina and for most of its known history has contributed to a growing beach on Figure Eight Island. Following this vote, the Homeowners Association should pursue less expensive alternatives that address the short-term, infrequent periods of erosion the island experiences by working with nature rather than against it.”

The proposed groin would have eventually eliminated nearly a mile of recreational beach and wildlife habitat north of its proposed location. That portion of the island provides essential habitat for sea turtles, piping plovers, red knots, and numerous other shorebirds.

“With this decision by the property owners at Figure 8, this natural inlet system, which belongs to all North Carolinians will hopefully be preserved and remain a special place for future generations to experience,” said Mike Giles, coastal advocate for the North Carolina Coastal Federation.

Rich Inlet is one of the most important places in North Carolina for piping plovers. Numerous individual birds from the endangered Great Lakes population have been observed at the inlet during their winter migration.

“A terminal groin on Figure 8 Island would have jeopardized a globally important place for birds. We are thankful that the homeowners chose to vote against the project. This will protect the rich ecosystem that brings life to the island for all to enjoy,” said Heather Hahn, executive director of Audubon North Carolina.

The Homeowners Association currently has an application for the proposed groin pending with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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About the Southern Environmental Law Center
The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of almost 60 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use. www.SouthernEnvironment.org

About the North Carolina Coastal Federation
The North Carolina Coastal Federation is the state’s only 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that focuses exclusively on protecting and restoring the coast of North Carolina through education, advocacy and habitat preservation and restoration. www.nccoast.org

About Audubon North Carolina
With 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 nc.audubon.org and @audubonnc.

Press Contacts

Geoff Gisler

Senior Attorney and Leader of SELC's Clean Water Program

Phone: 919-967-1450