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Legislative Savvy, Good Beach Management Win Designation For Topsail Beach

By Jenny Callison, posted May 23, 2016
Photos taken in Topsail Beach in 2010 (left) and in 2015 (right) show the broadening and improved slope of the beach. (Photos courtesy of the town of Topsail Beach)
The town of Topsail Beach is one of five locations nationally – and one of only two on the East Coast – to be honored for the quality of its beach improvement and maintenance.

The American Shore and Beach Preservation Association announced Monday that Topsail Beach is one of its 2016 Best Restored Beaches designees.  

This honor results from the town’s successful efforts to find a creative solution to disappearing federal funds for beach nourishment and inlet dredging, said Topsail Beach’s town manager Michael Rose.

Chris Gibson, the town’s engineering contractor, said the idea for what’s known today as North Carolina’s Shallow Draft Inlet Fund came from Topsail Beach, working with neighboring towns North Topsail Beach and Surf City.  The municipalities suggested that the state raise boat registration fees, with half of the proceeds going to a fund to dredge lakes and shallow-draft inlets for commercial and recreational boats. Money from the fund would be matched with local money.

State Rep. Chris Millis (R-Pender) introduced the bill in the House, and Sens. Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick) and Harry Brown (R-Onslow) introduced it in the Senate in 2013, Gibson said, adding that the legislation passed that summer.

Once the fund was in place, Topsail Beach became the first user, in what Gibson calls a “benchmark project.” The money allowed Topsail Beach to address its double problem of significant beach erosion and silting up of the inlet at its south end which prevented easy navigation.
The town dredged the inlet and used the sand to nourish its beach, “killing two birds with one stone,” Rose said. “The state money helped offset the town’s funds.

“We are very conscious of the significance of our beach, both as a valuable economic tool for the town and for protection,” Rose continued. “At high tide, the waves used to lap at our dunes. Now we have plenty of beach. In addition to slowing down the impact of erosion, it mitigates the impact of storms. When Hurricane Joaquin hit last October, we had zero impact, except that we lost some sand.”

Gibson noted that the town of Topsail Beach looks at its marine environment of beach, inlet and sound and manages it as a whole system.

ASBPA praised Topsail Beach for its collaborative approach to solving its environmental problems.

“In an era where federal funding for beach nourishment projects is quickly drying up and the need to maintain a beautiful recreational beach and provide substantial coastal protection is at an all-time high, coastal communities must find creative solutions to develop and maintain a successful beach nourishment. This project has been an example of how an individual community can work with non-federal agencies to create new funding mechanisms, provide multi-level benefits to the community, create political unity within the community, and do so while being a steward of the environment,” its news release stated.

The other four Best Restored Beaches winners for 2016 are Babes Beach, Galveston, Texas; Redondo Beach, California; Rosewood Beach, Highland Park, Illinois; and Seabrook Island, South Carolina.
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