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OBX coast named among top restored beaches in nation

With the beginning of the summer beach season a few days away, the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association has released its annual list of the nation’s best restored beaches, and Dare County is at the top.

This year’s list provides representation from the north Atlantic, Mid-Atlantic, south Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts.

While Americans celebrate beaches by visiting them, few understand what it takes to keep that beach special, according to the ASBPA, which created the Best Restored Beach award as a way of highlighting preservation efforts.

Why should you want to visit a restored beach? Many of America’s most heavily used beaches are restored beaches: wide and sandy, providing abundant recreational opportunities for beachgoers. For coastal communities, beautiful beaches fuel the economy.

Visitors to Dare County spend more than $1.1 billion annually, supporting over 13,100 local jobs and generating more than $102 million in state and local tax revenue, according to county officials.

To enter the competition, coastal communities nominated their projects for consideration, and an independent panel of coastal managers and scientists selected the winners. Judging was based on three criteria: The economic and ecological benefits the beach brings to its community; the short- and long-term success of the restoration project; and the challenges each community overcame during the course of the project.

This year’s winners spotlight a diverse selection of beaches and challenges, ranging from protecting coastal marshes in a wildlife refuge to protecting upland properties in one of America’s most exclusive locales. What they all have in common, however, is working creatively to address complex coastal issues in way that is sustainable and mitigate the ravages of nature, compatible with the surrounding environment and achievable in the face of both political and natural obstacles.

In awarding the Outer Banks, the ASBPA said Dare County “demonstrated why beach nourishment is the number one method of enhancing beaches, providing protection to adjacent infrastructure and increasing coastal resiliency.”

In September 2017 as construction was finishing up on the nearly four million cubic yard project that included parts of the towns of Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills, the project was impacted by three named storms (Irma, Jose and Maria).

In March of this year, a series of nor’easters tested the project, including one storm in early March that saw significant storm surge during five consecutive high tides over three days. During this same storm, wave run-up in Kill Devil Hills topped 15 feet. But that’s what the project was built for. “The take-home message for these projects is a multi-town beach nourishment project can be successful even when the odds seem to be against you,” the ASBPA wrote.

“Dare County is committed to preserving our beaches,” said Bob Woodard, county board of commissioners chairman. “They are the engine that drives our tourism economy and they require ongoing attention. That is why Dare County and its municipalities have stepped up to the plate and committed local resources to fund beach nourishment projects due to the lack of federal funding.”

Other top restored beaches honored this year include Galveston Island, Texas; Cardiff Beach, California; Thompsons Beach, New Jersey and Sagaponack Bridegehampton beaches, New York.

For more information about the highlighted beach restoration projects, see asbpa.org.