Nov 28, 2017

In the Outer Banks, Officials and Property Owners Battle to Keep the Ocean at Bay

Nags Head, NC
USA
by
Nicholas Kusnetz
,
InsideClimate News
A beach nourishment project underway in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, shows the difference between a newly nourished beach, in the background, and an area where the shoreline has eroded. Photo: Nicholas Kusnetz, InsideClimate News
A beach nourishment project underway in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, shows the difference between a newly nourished beach, in the background, and an area where the shoreline has eroded. Photo: Nicholas Kusnetz, InsideClimate News

This hurricane season, Lance Goldner harbored an unusual wish: that his beach house on North Carolina's scenic Outer Banks would collapse in a storm.

Goldner bought the property with his brother 14 years ago, when it was part of a row of cottages perched above the high-tide line. They'd planned to rent it out, but for much of the past decade, the faded yellow structure has stood vacant. Today, insulation spills from its bowels. Windows are boarded up. And high tides wash underneath between pilings, even on calm days.

Ever since a nor'easter slammed the Outer Banks in 2009, damaging hundreds of homes along these barrier islands, Goldner's cottage has been largely uninhabitable. The storm sucked the land out from beneath the homes. Now only two remain in a row that once numbered 10. Erosion has gradually consumed the shoreline in the tourist town of Nags Head, seizing homes and threatening nearly a billion dollars' worth of property.

Sea level rise from climate change is making matters worse. For homeowners caught in the middle, the damage has left some facing substantial financial losses.

"I just want to break even," said Goldner, a tall man with tousled gray hair and blue eyes.