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Eye of a human hurricane: Pea Island, Oregon Inlet, and Bodie Island, northern Outer Banks, North Carolina

By
Stanley R. Riggs
Stanley R. Riggs
Department of Geological Sciences, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina 27858, USA
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Dorothea V. Ames
Dorothea V. Ames
Department of Geological Sciences, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina 27858, USA
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Stephen J. Culver
Stephen J. Culver
Department of Geological Sciences, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina 27858, USA
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David J. Mallinson
David J. Mallinson
Department of Geological Sciences, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina 27858, USA
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D. Reide Corbett
D. Reide Corbett
Department of Geological Sciences, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina 27858, USA
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John P. Walsh
John P. Walsh
Department of Geological Sciences, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina 27858, USA
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Published:
January 2009

Pea Island, Oregon Inlet, and Bodie Island, North Carolina, are severely human-modified barrier-island segments that are central to an age-old controversy pitting natural barrier-island dynamics against the economic development of coastal North Carolina. Bodie Island extends for 15 km from the Nags Head–Kitty Hawk urban area to the north shore of Oregon Inlet and is part of Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Pea Island extends 19.3 km from the southern shore of Oregon Inlet to Rodanthe Village and is the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. Bodie and Pea Islands evolved as classic inlet- and overwash-dominated (transgressive) simple barrier islands that are now separated by Oregon Inlet. The inlet was opened in 1846 by a hurricane and subsequently migrated 3.95 km past its present location by 1989. With construction of coastal Highway 12 on Bodie and Pea Islands (1952) and the Oregon Inlet bridge (1962–1963), this coastal segment has become a critical link for the Outer Banks economy and eight beach communities that occur from Rodanthe to Ocracoke. The ongoing natural processes have escalated efforts to stabilize these dynamic islands and associated inlet in time and space by utilizing massive rock jetties and revetments, kilometers of sand bags and constructed dune ridges, and extensive beach nourishment projects. As the coastal system responds to ongoing processes of rising sea level and storm dynamics, efforts to engineer fixes are increasing and now constitute a “human hurricane” that pits conventional utilization of the barriers against the natural coastal system dynamics that maintain barrier-island integrity over the long term.

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Contents

GSA Special Papers

America's Most Vulnerable Coastal Communities

Edited by
Joseph T. Kelley
Joseph T. Kelley
University of Maine, Department of Earth Sciences, Orono, Maine, USA
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Orrin H. Pilkey
Orrin H. Pilkey
Division of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA
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J. Andrew
J. Andrew
Centre for Coastal and Marine Research, School of Environmental Sciences, University of Ulster, Coleraine, UK
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G. Cooper
G. Cooper
Centre for Coastal and Marine Research, School of Environmental Sciences, University of Ulster, Coleraine, UK
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Geological Society of America
Volume
460
ISBN print:
9780813724607
Publication date:
2009

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