The N.C. Coastal Resources Commission stood by its ban on beach-hardening structures Friday, rejecting Topsail Beach's request to build a jetty to control beach erosion.
The vote reaffirms the commission's five-year ban on jetties, sea walls and other permanent structures aimed at preventing beach erosion.The rule - considered the strongest in the nation - is based on the premise that structures cannot halt beach erosion. Such structures, many scientists contend, merely shift the erosion elsewhere.
``We should not be encouraging these structures,' Dan Besse, the commission chairman, said while debating the town's request - which he said has far-reaching implications.
``This vote will determine the future of our barrier islands,' he said. ``If we send this to public hearing, the message that will be heard out there is that we are considering changing our rules.'
Officials in the Pender County town said they have not decided what to do next. They could challenge the ban in court or ask to be exempted from the rule, instead of trying to change it.
Last year, the commission allowed an exception to the rule to let the N.C. Department of Transportation build a jetty to protect the Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet. The commission said that was an emergency case to protect the public's safety.
A small rock jetty is integral to a $15 million project designed by the Army Corps of Engineers to slow erosion along the town's oceanfront, said Tony Caudle, Topsail Beach town manager. The plan also calls for building sand dunes and pumping sand along almost three miles of beach.
Without the jetty, Caudle said, a hurricane could open a new inlet and cut the town in two, threatening 80 homes, worth about $18 million.
The town, he said, wants public projects exempted from the rule if it can be shown that the projects would not have adverse environmental effects.
``We're not trying to armor the coast,' Caudle said. ``We're not trying to put the Coastal Resources Commission in a bad light. We're just trying to save our town.'