Beach Nourishment

Beach Nourishment

3:35 pm

What is beach nourishment?

Also known as beach replenishment, beach nourishment/renourishment involves replacing sand and sediment that has been lost due to erosion or coastal storms. Replacement sand and sediment is dredged from areas offshore and pumped/placed according to an engineered plan. As a result, the widened beaches may reduce further storm damage.

Beach Nourishment Projects

FEMA Emergency Dune Project

Following Hurricane Matthew in October of 2016, the Town of Oak Island worked with FEMA to restore some of the dunes lost in the storm. The project was completed in March 2018. Concern grew over the color of sand brought in to replenish the dunes as it was darker and could potentially affect the incubation temperature of the turtle nests along the island.

The Town is working to eliminate escarpments and drop offs to make accessing the beach easier and to ensure suitable spots for the turtles to lay their eggs. Turtle patrol volunteers check our beaches each morning for nests, moving them if necessary, and notify the Town when areas are clear.

Wilmington Harbor Project

Due to difficulties experienced by cargo and container ships coming into the port of Wilmington, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) plans to dredge Smith Island Channel. Oak Island and Caswell Beach will receive sand dredged from this channel up to a specified location at SE 58th Street. The project is anticipated to start over the next few weeks and will take approximately 3 to 4 months to complete. Obviously, this means the project will occur concurrently with turtle nesting season and tourist season.

Why is this project happening during the summertime?

Dredging at the Wilmington Harbor Inner Ocean Bar usually occurs every 2 to 3 years, with beach-compatible material placed alternatively on either Oak Island or Bald Head Island within an approved environmental window between November 15 and April 30. No bids were received from the initial attempt to award the contract in November of 2017. In order to keep the navigation channel open and functioning for ship traffic, the Town of Oak Island considered all options available and determined a need to re-issue the contract solicitation a second time for work outside the environmental window when dredges were available to do the work.

When will work start and how long will it last?

Work is anticipated to start in late May. The contractor has 120 days in which to complete the dredging work and de-mobilize from the beach. If the dredging is completed before the end of the 120 days, it is possible the contractor may be able to de-mobilize sooner. However, at this time the contract period of performance will end on or before August 28.

Will this work happen during the summertime every year from now on?

No. The work this summer is intended to be a one-time event as it was necessary due to the funding situation and bidding process.

Will the beach re-nourishment affect my Oak Island vacation?

Possibly. Generally speaking, the operation is set to begin on Wednesday, May 23 with a planned completion date of August 21st for active pumping of sand. The operation will start in Caswell Beach proceeding 24-hours per day, 7-days per week at an anticipated rate of 1 block every 3 days.

As the operation moves down the beach toward the west end of the island to SE 58th Street, guests will find walkovers at each beach access and every 400 feet allowing people to access the beaches where work has completed. When work/pumping is active in a particular area, the beach will be closed in 1,000-feet sections (500-feet to either side of work) with temporary fencing.

Will this work go on 24 hours a day, with lights and noise?

Yes. The contractor will be working 24 hours per day, 7 days per week until the work is completed. This will include the use of lighting and equipment with back-up safety alarms. See additional information below regarding what to expect during your stay.

What should I expect?

Some Caswell Beach and Oak Island areas will not be impacted by the dredging operation. However, if you are vacationing between May 23 and August 21, you may be affected. Generally speaking as the active work zone moves down the beach, the completed portions of the beach will be available for public use as will other areas of the beach outside the active work zone. The contractor may continue to have a pipe through these areas until the entire project is finished.

Detailed location information will be available on the progress map offered by the US Army Corps of Engineers which will consistently be updated throughout the operation.

Depending on the progression of work, you could experience the following:

  1. Night Illumination – equipment lights and spotlights will be used during the evening hours;
  2. Temporary Construction Noises – equipment will beep during operation and guests will hear construction noises; and,
  3. Beach Access Diversions – while there will be temporary walkovers to allow beach-goers access over the pipe, there will be temporary fencing and closures 500-feet to either side of current work areas. Additionally, you may experience diversions due to transitional phases of work (i.e., flattening the beach once pumping is complete in an area, building/installation of beach walkovers, and/or preparing the completed areas for open access to guests and final surveys).

How big will the dredge pipe be and will I be able to access the beach if it is in front of our vacation rental property?

Construction is generally completed using a large pipeline dredge which pumps material on to the beach via a dredge pipe that either floats in the water or runs along the beach itself. During the period of active dredging/placement operations, the dredge pipe will be about 3 feet in diameter. Walkover access ramps for pedestrian traffic will be constructed over the dredge pipe every 400 feet and at every pedestrian beach access point.

What does this mean if I have rented an oceanfront house where the work is occurring?

As the work progresses portions of the beach in the active work zone will be temporarily off limits to the general public for safety reasons. These active work zones will be approximately 1,000-feet in length, which is about 500-feet to either side of the discharge pipe. All other areas of the beach will remain accessible to the general public. Property owners and/or renters may experience temporary disruption in direct beach access while the active work zone passes in front of their property. However, as work progresses and the active work zone moves down the beach these impacts will dissipate. For additional information, please refer to to the “What Should I Expect” section above.


As this project and its timeline is out of our control, Margaret Rudd & Associates, Inc. will abide by the policies and procedures already in place. For specific information on those policies and procedures, please refer to your rental contract documentation.

Additional Information

For the most up-to-date information on the project including weekly progress updates and maps showing current work areas, visit the USACE – Wilmington District Website.