A beach house in North Carolina fell into the ocean. Is there any solution? (2023)


7 minutes



It's been a tough time for Rodanthe, North Carolina, a picturesque side area of ​​the Outer Banks where homes plunge into the sea and homeownersPay for the moveFar from the raging waves, residents are asking officials to do more to protect the rapidly eroding shoreline.

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At a town meeting earlier this year, Dale County Manager Bobby Outten explained that the local government could not begin to fund extensive beach maintenance that would give Rodanthe more time away from the beach in ruins. But he promised a technical assessment so residents could see what it might cost to dredge offshore sediment and add a new beach.

The figures, released in a 35-page county report in recent days, highlight Rodanthe's enviable situation, where others like her are at risk, researchers say.Rising sea levelsIthe storm intensifies.


The report found the region's one-time beach maintenance costs to be as high as $40 million, about double what a similar study found a decade ago. It will cost more than $175 million to maintain the beach for 30 years. The report details other possible options, such as installing structures to help slow erosion, but either path would have significant costs.

"It's a big number, a lot of money and we don't have that much money," Orton said in an interview. "We don't have the resources to finance a project of this scale."

Earlier this year, Dale County had a balance of $6 million in the Beach Conservation Fund, which comes from hotel and vacation rental taxes and is to be used for multiple projects across the vast county.

For nutrition to become a reality at Rodante, Outten said, "some source of funding has to be available somewhere, not locally." deadline.


When the county made its latest estimate, Rob Young, a Western Carolina University professor and director of the institute,He developed a coastal research program., another Rodanthe estimate is made.

In the ballroom, Raleigh Young told meeting attendees of the State Floodplain Managers Association that, using currently assessed tax figures, it would cost about $43 million to buy all the homes within 300 feet from the high tide line at Rodanthe and avoid eating at Repeat Beach. .

It has about 80 buildings, the vast majority of which are vacation homes and, according to Young, only a small part of the county's tax base. at the same time,his research found"By removing these properties, Rodanthe could have a beach that will last 15 to 25 years."


As with beach protection, the cause is unfunded and the appetite of homeowners or elected officials is limited. Young makes it clear that his research is not meant to recommend a single approach.

But what it does mean is that as sea levels rise and flooding increasingly devastates America's coastline, communities should consider taking a prudent step back, at least in terms of the cost of that option, especially when taxpayers pay for it.

“There will be a recall,” Young told an audience in Raleigh. “The question is, do you want the withdrawal to be managed or not? Because right now it's largely unmanaged."

Young and others say Rodante's struggles exemplify the thorny environmental, economic and emotional challenges that more coastal communities will face as mounting flooding forces them to make difficult decisions about what to protect along the country's coastline and when to withdraw.


Four on Rodankathe house collapsedofearly 2022At least a dozen other sites are still in grave danger, with erosion rates reaching several feet per year in some places. With sea levels still rising and some homeowners paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to move their homes as far inland as possible, Yang sees a place where he can at least consider taking a step back.

"If we can't have a rational discussion about relocating and buying structures in a place like Rodante... how can we do it anywhere?" Young said in an interview.

The Outten County executive said buyouts are unlikely to be an option for several reasons, including that landlords, many of whom rely on rental income during the summer, are less likely to leave. Buying multiple homes also means paying local property and use taxes. Ultimately, he said, officials may still need to take steps to protect nearby Highway 12, a major highway that runs through the Outer Banks.


"At some point, you're going to have to feed yourself anyway," says Orton. "Protecting your home becomes secondary."

Cynthia Doughty, who has lived in her waterfront home on South Shore Drive for more than 20 years, wants the state or federal government to help fund a beach maintenance project in Rodanthe.

Doughty had been away from her home since last May, when a storm created waves under its foundation and the county declared it unsafe. She has since moved to a new foundation about 75 feet from the encroaching sea and plans to return soon.

"I'm not going anywhere," he said of the prospect of the acquisition. She spoke about the wildfires in California, tornadoes in the Midwest, and other threats facing people in different parts of the country. "I will take care of the ocean."


North of Gull Street, Gus Gusler felt the same way. He's one of a dozen owners on the streetI'm planning to moveTheir houses are further from the sea and they pay a fortune out of pocket for more time.

Gusler avoided the debate about beach maintenance and who should pay for it, but hardlyRedemption interest.The vacationers reserved his house this summer and plans to use it for the rest of the year.

"People love being by the ocean. There's something about it," Gussler said. "It would cost me a lot of money to give up."

Given the pricing of options detailed in recent research and the apparent lack of funding sources, Rodanthe appears as vulnerable as ever. Even those who hardly agree with others seem to agree that this is not a good thing.


"The absolute worst option is to do nothing," Yang said, noting that the status quo is the least ideal and most environmentally damaging path. “We can't just say, 'Let's just let all these houses slowly but steadily fall into the sea over the next two decades.' It's just ridiculous."

Officials at all levels of government continue to find ways to help coastal communities like Rodanthe, Outten said. But the repair probably won't be quick or cheap.

"If there was an easy answer," he said, "we would."

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