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North Topsail Beach, North Carolina: A model for maximizing coastal hazard vulnerability

By
Orrin H. Pilkey
Orrin H. Pilkey
Division of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Box 90228, Durham, North Carolina 27708, USA
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William J. Neal
William J. Neal
Department of Geology, Grand Valley State University, 1 Campus Drive, Allendale, Michigan 49401, USA
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Published:
January 2009

As a result of the natural setting plus poor development and management decisions, the town of North Topsail Beach on Topsail Island, North Carolina, is the state's most vulnerable barrier-island community. It is our view that this very narrow, low, and duneless island community is the most hazardous on the U.S. East Coast. Although most of North Topsail Beach was designated a CoBRA unit under the Coastal Barrier Resources Act of 1982, the area has been developed extensively (mostly post-1980), starting with “mom and pop” beach cottages, and evolving into large single-family rental houses, duplexes, and several medium- and high-rise hotels and condos. Over the years, North Topsail Beach has experienced property losses from storm surge, overwash, flooding, inlet migration, new inlet formation, and chronic shoreline erosion. The single evacuation road crosses seven swash channels and is flooded early in every significant storm. A political cauldron has evolved, often featuring the front-row property owners versus those behind the front row, in which this middle-class town seeks to solve its problems. Debate centers on beach erosion problems, including proposed beach nourishment; exemptions to banned shore hardening; and construction of a proposed terminal groin and inlet channel realignment.

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Contents

GSA Special Papers

America's Most Vulnerable Coastal Communities

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:
January 01, 2009

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