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Commentary: Science, not wealth, should have final say on beach protection

Excerpted from the Asheville Citizen-Times:
If the N.C. Senate has its way, decades of sound coastal management will be sacrificed to benefit owners of exclusive beachfront houses, most of which are investment properties or second homes. The integrity of the beaches that belong to all North Carolinians will be forever undermined if the House passes two bills approved by the Senate in recent weeks.
We urge lawmakers to stand up against the wealthy interests that would undermine North Carolina’s beautiful coastline and vote no on the two bills, which moved to the House earlier in June.
One would allow terminal groins to be built along the coast. These are hard structures that jut into the sea and interrupt the natural movement of the sandy beaches.
The other would temporarily forbid the Coastal Resources Commission from enforcing state law that requires the removal of sandbags used for the same purpose.
That the state’s senators gave a nod to the bills in the face of virtually unanimous opposition from coastal scientists testifies to the success of sustained lobbying efforts initiated several years ago by a group of wealthy, well-connected Figure Eight Island property owners. Leaders in some coastal communities also support the bills out of concern for what will happen if expensive beachfront houses in their communities must be moved or torn down.
A number, though not all, of Figure Eight Island owners want to build a terminal groin to try to stop erosion on the north end of the island where several expensive homes are threatened. The Coastal Resources Commission banned groins, jetties and other erosion control structures beginning in 1985. In 2003, the legislature unanimously voted the ban into law.
It’s a law that recognizes the reality that some forces of nature are too powerful and too complex for human beings to control without unintended and sometimes dire consequences.
Thanks to those lawmakers’ foresight, the sand along North Carolina’s coast migrates as nature intended and the state has been spared endless lawsuits over whose groin is causing erosion on whose beach. …
North Carolina’s beaches are one of the state’s most treasured and well-preserved resources. We’re counting on members of the House to defeat these two self-serving bills and see that it stays that way.

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