By Callie Boatright, UNCW

My Internship at Masonboro Island Coastal Reserve: Part 2

Every morning I spent on Masonboro Island last summer was like a “moving picture” of the beauty of wildlife, the beaches and the ocean. There was always something different to be found. Unfortunately, though, that beauty was interrupted each day, as well, by the presence of a huge industrial dredging barge in Carolina Beach inlet.

Almost every day we walked the beach our beautiful view was obscured by a dredging boat throwing sand out of the Carolina Beach Inlet.

Barrier islands are constantly moving. On the east coast, they move south and west, toward the mainland. Many barrier islands are heavily developed with businesses and residences, and island movement creates numerous problems for island inhabitants and infrastructure. The movement causes sand migration and erosion on the north end of the islands and deposition on the south end. Sand migration is the movement of sand down the beach due to wave action. Structures built close to the northern and eastern edges of barrier islands are constantly in danger of encroachment by the sea due to sand migration. For example, residents of the Topsail Island’s north end were forced to vacate their homes as the beach receded, putting their homes in danger of flooding and collapse. At one point in the late 90s and early 2000s, Mason’s Inlet on the north side of Wrightsville Beach (also a barrier island) crept to within 30 yards of the nine story Shell Island resort before the Corps of Engineers rerouted the inlet a half-mile north. Without that intervention, the hotel certainly would have fallen into the sea.

Masonboro Island is subject to this natural movement, which causes the inlets around Masonboro to fill with sand. Inlets on both the north and the south end allow commercial and recreational boaters to come and go. The north end of the island is protected by a jetty, but the south end has no such protection. So while Masonboro Island remains undeveloped, its natural movement still puts it in conflict with surrounding inlets and the highly developed Wrightsville Beach to the north, Carolina Beach to the south and Intracoastal Waterway to the west.

Left alone, offshore sand would migrate south into the inlet, eventually closing it to boat traffic and creating dangerous shoals. Maintenance of the inlet is a never ending battle costing taxpayers millions per decade. Of course maintaining the inlet benefits boaters, fisherman and, as a result, benefits the local economy. But, we also need to realize that the costs are high – constant dredging and hardened structures such as jetties – require constant maintenance to allow these boaters to continually use the inlets.

While the natural beauty of Masonboro Island is undeniable, the almost constant presence of the dredge is a reminder that even places that seem pristine require man’s intervention to enjoy its resources and that intervention can sometimes be expensive. Sometimes paradise is not what it seems.

My Internship at Masonboro Island Coastal Reserve: Part 1 – Not your Everyday Walk on the Beach

Callie Boatright is a senior at The University of North Carolina, Wilmington, with a double major in Environmental Studies and Communication Studies. Her goal is to combine both majors toward a career in documentary films.


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