Jessica Weinkle

science, risk, politics... and society

The Riggings: Between a rock and a hard place

The Fort Fisher area is a gem.  It's a narrow strip of barrier island with the southern end forming part of the mouth of the Cape Fear River.  Fort Fisher is an important historic landmark.  The Fort guarded the the mouth of the river used to transport goods to the Confederate army during the Civil War.  The fall of Fort Fisher swiftly led to the end of the war.  The wind swept trees and bramble type bushes create a canopy underneath for wildlife... and well, whomever else.  It's hot and buggy in the summer unless the breeze is good and strong, and cold, wet and windy in the winter.  It's pretty fantastic. 

Erosion of the Fort Fisher area is protected by rip rap a type of "hardened structure" that keeps the land in place.  In North Carolina, hardened structures are few and far between because the state has a law generally against them.  Sometimes there are exemptions usually for wealthy people and heritage sites, like Fort Fisher.  At the north end of Fort Fisher's rip rap  is a condo complex, The Riggings.   

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The Riggings is threatened by erosion.  And apparently it has been since it was built.  Zillow reports the condos built in 1982 (the local news says, 1985). The state has protected the site with sandbags since 1985. The sandbags are considered "temporary" but as they say, there is nothing as permanent as a temporary policy.  Indeed, North Carolina's coast is dotted with a many sandbag projects. 

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To get a sense of what I mean by "threatened by erosion" see my own picture on the right. 

The RIggings HOA has been fighting to allow beach nourishment in front of the property.  A nice package of documents, tells a detailed story of a struggle between the HOA, USACE and the NC Coastal Resources Commission.   

Just north of the Riggings is a natural, and rare, outcropping of rock that are on the NC Registry of National Heritage Sites.  The rocks were placed on the list in 1982.  Protection of rocks is part of the reason the Riggings can't be included in the beach nourishment project scheduled for 2018/2019 for Carolina and Kure Beaches. 

The current (largely considered very pro development) NC Coastal Resources Commission questions the significance of the rocks being protected and the USACE reports that they can't nourish in front of the Riggings because they can't cover the rocks with sand.  As well, the condo sit right along a point so that even if they were to nourish in front of the building, wave action makes erosion especially quick there and beach nourishment ineffective. 

The squabbel is quite interesting in part because it has been going on for so long.  But also because it combines so many issues:  A perfect storm of sorts: erosion, resource protection, real estate development, parks, civil war relics...