Letter to the Editor: Thanks for clarification – Duck Pier’s purpose and tree hugs to live oaks

Published 8:12 am Saturday, February 11, 2023

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To the Editor:

What a nice update provided in the recent CT on the renewed missions being carried out at the “Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) at the new Army Corps of Engineers Field Research Facility (FRF) in Duck.” The updates from the many experts quoted were almost as complimentary of their purpose and work as was the recent State of Dare County update meeting which ended with the proud representatives handing out live oaks saplings symbolizing the continued and sustained growth and prosperity of this natural wonderland (I think).

But who knew that the Duck Pier was such an important site for the US of A’s planning should we ever need to storm another beach or get to a site demolished by the ever more powerful mega-cyclones and hurricanes that seem to be capable of wiping out an island as large as Puerto Rico. Citing the civil works and military mission, which includes “projected forces method development, forcible and early entry conductivity, and rapid operation transitions, the Duck Pier’s director, Dr. David Pittman who “doubles as the director of research and development (R&D) and chief scientist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cites the extreme value of the Duck Pier and the R&D’s mission as ‘literally (helping) to build this country.’”

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Dang, again who knew the critical missions performed so close to the beautiful beaches and unexploded bombs of the immediate area. Dr. Pittman also affirms the “Pier” is “actually in the Guinness Book of Records. It’s the longest continuous monitoring of waves current, imagery beach, (and) everything has been measured.” Dr. Ty Wamsley tightened the focus on the “importance of the facility and research conducted daily: It is our responsibility to join forces to have the ability to freely manuever through this region, to bring what and who we need through safely and efficiently.” Kinda makes you want to stand tall and give a nice salute to the critical mission for this and the coming additional “research conducted daily.”

In a summary of Margaret MacMillan’s recent book: “WAR – How Conflict Shaped Us,” we’re provided with the rather eye-opening statement that “War has shaped humanity’s history, its social and political institutions, its values and ideas.” Her book looks at “ways in which war has influenced human society and how, in turn, changes in political organization, technology, or ideologies have affected how and why we fight.” Given our proximity to the Duck Pier’s internationally recognized research facility, whose mission is to ensure that the Forces who would land on a beach would “have the ability to freely maneuver through (any) region …” we should feel in many ways proud.

Our family has rented over the years houses on both sides of the Duck Pier. We attended a wedding for a good friend whose son got married under the Pier (I stood guard to ensure no recon teams suddenly appeared). And in all the times we have driven by this research facility, I thought it was basically there for some unknown but fairly harmless reason. I dare say there are many versions spun in homes and restaurants about the purpose of the Duck Pier. I would prefer to have it left that way, since the rationale for military purposing seems to be a bit of a stretch. But in order to get progress as Ms. MacMillan’s book clarifies, there’s nothing like the possibility of a future War to drive change and costs on all levels.

Seems to me that what “the team noted (as) the civil (civilian) mission at work …,” including, “measuring erosion, (and) the “need to understand how waves work,” is the more important mission both for the USA and for the international community; which then causes one to question how has this world-renown facility assisted the OBX in the plan for refurbishing our beaches? Wouldn’t one think that if we have this facility here that they could provide the county with valuable data about such projects, or at least weigh in on how effective such projects are?

And perhaps they have, but given what appears to be a prior frosty relationship between the Town of Duck and the governmental agencies managing the pier, it might be a stretch to think there has been discussion between the two. However, hope springs eternal for cooperation, and the recent acceptance by the Town of Duck for the pending Vesta Project (spreading the ground green silicate dolomite to capture greenhouse gases) has warmed significantly with town manager Drew Havens affirming that he is “even more comfortable that the (Vesta) project is not risky for the town …, and that the Town has “agreed in February to send a letter of support to the Corps of Engineers who also will be “collaborating on the project with Vesta.” Town manager Havens does point out as well that that the town “would have no involvement or authority over the project.”

Even better, there is no worry that the beach will turn green since Grace Andrews, Vesta’s head of science, has affirmed that even if some (of the green sand) did (get blown in) it would not turn the beach green – “a concern one resident expressed” (samples provided at meeting). But how will the Vesta Project align with the sand “remediation” plan currently scheduled for next month in Duck? And more intriguing, how will the blowing in of sand, green mix or not affect the military mission research conducted by the new Duck Pier staff? Will sand be blown in and around the Duck Pier? If the sand is blown in and around the Pier, will the same beach bottom properties exist? Is there’s no difference between a “blown in beach” and the natural evolving beach that those who own beautiful homes affirm needs to expanded?

Could be this is just another concerned citizen who’s watched one too many Netflix climate change documentaries, and probably there’s a scientific algorithm the new scientists at Duck Pier can use to correct for a “modified” East Coast beach. Or perhaps all East Coast beaches will eventually be ‘”remediated” and the underwater topography will be perfect?

Yes it’s truly great that Duck Pier and Vesta and the military are closely complimented and that their missions align well in the setting of our wonderful slightly-augmented “natural” environment. And from a tree hugger perspective it was great that the Dare County commissioners provided live oak seedlings at the recent Dare County update, but how about reversing that and creating a county regulation to determine if live oaks need to be clear cut from any new lot development, commercial or residential?

Russ Watkins
Southern Shores