Beach Nourishment

The Town of Surf City currently has two beach nourishment projects underway: 


The Emergency Berm Sand Haul that began early 2019 is completed. 

Final As Built Survey

Beach Access /  Stair Replacement

On Friday, March 20th Mayor Medlin received the letter below regarding beach access-ways and oceanfront access structures. 

Mayor Medlin,

As you know, the Town of Surf City and the NC Division of Coastal Management have been working together to address beach access walkway concerns with the goal of improving beach access following construction of the FEMA emergency beach berm. Since our staff’s February 19, 2020 public presentation and discussion at the Surf City Welcome Center, we have reviewed and considered many options presented by Town officials as well as private property owners. We have also conducted several site visits, and have observed continuing erosion at the base of the emergency berm following construction.

As we’ve discussed, the FEMA emergency berm does not meet the Coastal Resources Commission’s definition of a frontal dune (15A NCAC 07H.0305(a)(4) and .0308(c)), and therefore DCM cannot authorize structural accessways across the berm. After careful consideration, the NC Division of Coastal Management offers the following guidance for beach accessways over the FEMA emergency beach berm that extends to the Surf City Town Limits:

- Limited stairs may be added to damaged structural accessways that are broken off above ground level in order to allow access to the beach, but the stairs must be oriented parallel to the beach, cannot extend toward the water, and shall not terminate beyond the toe of the escarpment or below the normal high tide line, whichever is farther landward. Any proposed addition of stairs or other structural components requires a case-by-case review by DCM staff.

- Other acceptable construction materials for accessways on the FEMA berm shall be limited to temporary slatted, wooden or composite (plastic or rubber) roll-out matting. These temporary beach walkways may be fastened or attached to any existing structures; however, no new pilings, posts or other subsurface anchors shall be used. Any materials used for this purpose shall be placed on the face of the berm and shall not terminate beyond the toe of the escarpment or below the normal high tide line, whichever is farther landward.

- All other proposals for alternative beach access walkways will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis; however, the roll-out matting may be used without additional approval provided the temporary structures do not impede emergency access along the beach or restrict the public’s ability to utilize the beach. Please note that removal or modifications to these structures may become necessary if erosion continues.

We thank you for your patience concerning this matter and ask that you please contact me or Tara MacPherson, DCM Wilmington District Manager, if you have any additional questions, comments or concerns.

Braxton Davis
Director, Division of Coastal Management
NC Department of Environmental Quality
Morehead City, NC 28557

(252) 808-2808 x202

CAMA Meeting Notes Accessways February 19, 2020

Structural Accessway - Location & Construction Statue



127 Cardinal Drive Ext.

Wilmington, NC 28405-3845


Fax: 910-395-3964

sand haul


This week the USACE outlined details regarding the federal nourishment project, the contractor plans to start the nourishment project at the Topsail Beach town line and work north. The contract will go out for bid this summer with plans to begin construction early 2021. The first phase of the project will place 2 million cubic yards of sand. We are still awaiting approval from NCDOT on right-of-parking at two specific beach accesses along S. Shore Drive. Utilizing a template provided by the USACE, Staff utilized current and historical aerial photography to determine property status. Property status is divided into several categories based on location of the dune structure. This ultimately determines the ability of the Town to obtain the cost-share provided by the USACE. USACE staff is working on a coordinated 1 page public message that is consistent for all parties involved and includes key facts and timelines. Once we receive the official message and timelines we will release those.

The federal project is estimated to add an additional 13 million cubic yards of sand to the beach, build a new dune that is projected to be 25’ wide and 14’ high and widen the beach with a 6’ high and 300’ wide berm. Oceanfront citizens should expect to receive copies of perpetual easements within the next month. These perpetual easements will need to be signed and notarized, and the originals returned to the clerk’s office at 201 Community Center Drive or PO Box 2475 Surf City, NC 28445. Any questions can be addressed at 910-328-4131x106.

Post Florence Imminent Critical Lot Analysis Explanation: 


“Imminently Threatened” – This is a NCDCM (CAMA) term that means that the dune escarpment (the “drop off”) is within 20 feet of the foundation of the house.

“Hyper-Critical”- This is a term I used to describe area where infrastructure or house foundations were at immediate risk of being undermined by another erosion event. In most cases these are areas where:

  1. The house or infrastructure meets the definition of imminently threatened.
  2. The infrastructure is installed below elevation 8’ NAVD88.
  3. Ground elevation for house is above elevation 14’ NAVD88.

Our process in determining the sand placement area is as follows:

First, using the Post-Florence beach surveys which went from the road to 3,000 feet offshore, we determined the +14’ and +8’ contours. These contours define the seaward face of the dune, the angle of the drop off, and where the dune had been completely over-washed. We then overlaid these contours onto post storm aerial photography to determine the distance of the escarpment from the houses. Next, we determined how much sand would be required to complete the berm at the north end to protect the water sewer and road infrastructure. This took approximately 60,000 of the 160,000 cubic yards of sand that we believe the Town can obtain for the $5M budget.

Next we looked at proximity of the escarpment to the houses based on the 14’ contour or lack thereof. We prioritized houses in blocks of 4 or more, as putting sand on less than a 200ft strip would result in too rapid of erosion. Some house that were substantially forward of their neighbors were eliminated based on this protocol.

Lastly we looked at ground elevation under the houses and prioritized houses with higher escarpments. This was important. House pilings are typically driven 8 feet into the ground. Thus if the ground elevation is 14’, then the bottom of the pilings is at elevation 6’ NAVD88. Dune erosion typically takes the elevation down to about elevation 6’. Thus a house built a house built at elevation 14’ or above would totally collapse with only 10 more feet of dune erosion, while a house built on ground elevation 8’ or less can survive a wash through.

All of these things were taken into account in order to protect the most sensitive areas first and the most areas possible with the 100,000 cubic yards available. All of these decisions were very tough as we feel the entire beach needs restoration. We have done our best to look out for the Town as a whole, strictly using scientific and mathematic principles. While some homeowners may disagree with the outcome of this process, it is the only ethical way to do complete this difficult task under the current constraints..

TI Coastal, PLLC