Graphic showing activity of Pelican Watch beach 1849-2017.

When the towns of Duck, Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills were lining up to work with Dare County to nourish their beaches, Southern Shores held itself apart. 

Historically the town has had some of the most stable beaches on the Outer Banks, so when the decision was made to not be a part of the project, it made sense. However, recent events on the southern end of town at Pelican’s Watch have shown how quickly circumstances can change.

Beginning in 2009, the beach began to erode and erode rapidly, retreating an average of 17’ per year. After Hurricane Matthew flattened the dunes and left properties exposed to the ocean, homeowners asked town council for help.

Feeling that one of the most effective mean of protection would be beach nourishment, the Town Council approached the nourishment contractor to see if they could piggyback on the Kitty Hawk project that is planned to begin in June.

The answer was yes they could if the necessary permits could be acquired. Because the equipment was already there, the savings would be very substantial. Further the south end of Southern Shores was going to be the taper area for the Kitty Hawk project so relatively little additional sand would be required.

On Tuesday evening the town held an informational forum at the Hilton Garden Inn in Kitty Hawk. Very well-attended—there seemed to be at least 250 people in attendance—the meeting was a opportunity for public comment and for experts to discuss beach nourishment.

The meeting was very long; beach nourishment is a hot button issue and there were a lot of people who wished to speak. There were also five experts on hand so the meeting went well over two hours.

Most of the public comment spoke out in favor of the project; opposition seemed to focus on the efficacy of nourishment and its potential environmental damage.

Reide Corbett from the Coastal Studies Institute discussed an ongoing study of the environmental effects of nourishment at the nourishment project at the S Curves on Pea Island. His findings were consistent with other studies—after the first year the beach recovers rapidly in years two, three and on.

Among the experts there was a consensus that beach nourishment at Pelican’s Watch would mitigate the loss of beach and protect homes for the next few years, although a more detailed study of what was happening on the beach and nearshore was needed to develop a longterm plan.