Cape Hatteras National Seashore recently purchased two threatened oceanfront properties and associated structures in Rodanthe as part of a pilot program designed to address nearly two dozen homes that are at risk of falling into the ocean.
No taxpayer money was used to make the purchases, but rather funds came from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which invests earnings from offshore oil and gas leasing by the U.S. Department of Interior “to acquire lands, waters, and interested therein necessary to achieve the natural, cultural, wildlife, and recreation management objectives of the National Park Service.”
Privately-owned oceanfront houses adjacent to the Hatteras Island beaches along the villages of Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco and Hatteras are typical, elevated beach-style homes situated on pilings with a concrete driveway, parking pad, and septic systems.
Many private properties adjacent to the beach in Rodanthe, which previously contained backyard land, dunes, and dry sand, are either partially or fully covered with ocean water on a regular basis.
Since 2020, five privately-owned houses have collapsed in Rodanthe. Four out of the five collapses occurred over a 13-month period of time in 2022-23, including two collapses on the same day in May 2022.
Debris from the houses spread out along more than 17 miles of beach. Efforts by Park Service employees and public volunteers have removed much of the debris following each collapse.
Since then, the Park Service has been working with property owners, Dare County and the State of North Carolina to develop solutions to protect America’s first national seashore and its visitors.
That includes communication with homeowners about mitigating potential collapses including removal or relocation; closing beaches around the threatened homes during weather events; cleaning up the beaches following collapses in coordination with the owners, or in some cases, seeking reimbursement of costs; and the creation of an Interagency Working Group to further address the issue.
That group has a meeting scheduled for Thursday by web conference.
With assistance from the National Park Trust and funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, properties at 23292 and 23298 East Beacon Road were purchased for fair market value using zero taxpayer dollars.
According to an update posted Wednesday on Cape Hatteras National Seashore’s Threatened Oceanfront Structures webpage, a contractor will be sought in the coming months to remove threatened structures from the two properties and restore the beach.
Once the beach is restored, the adjoining lots will be opened to the public. If the structures collapse prior to demolition, the National Park Service will assemble a team to promptly clean the beach and restore the area.
The Park Service said the purchase of the two properties on East Beacon Road was pursued for the following reasons:
- To mitigate the ongoing impacts of having threatened oceanfront structures impact visitor safety, public health, and wildlife habitat at the Seashore.
- To assist threatened oceanfront structure owners that do not have viable options to move the structures or promptly remove debris following potential collapse.
- To restore the beach and make the sites a public beach access where visitors from the surrounding community can walk onto the Seashore beach areas without walking through private properties.
- To remove the structures or have the ability to respond to their collapse and clean up debris is a much quicker manner; thereby, minimizing impacts to park areas and visitors.
- To evaluate the feasibility of a larger program.