Downtown area in North Carolina will gain storm resilience via multi-million-dollar restoration of much-loved Sugarloaf Island

Just off the coast of Morehead City, North Carolina, much-loved Sugarloaf Island serves as a protective storm barrier for the downtown area.

Yet with every passing storm, Sugarloaf’s banks have rapidly eroded, causing grave concern over the island’s ability to shield Morehead City from severe storm damage and flooding.

Beach shoreline erosion over time of Sugarloaf Island in North Carolina.

Good news arrived on December 1, 2022, when it was announced that—thanks to the support of North Carolina Senator Norman Sanderson and State Representative Pat McElraft—downtown Morehead City will gain resilience via the restoration of Sugarloaf Island.

They both helped to champion $2 million in legislative funding allowing a team of experts to identify and design the best shoreline stabilization methods for the island, balancing shoreline protection, public uses, and natural resource restoration.

Back in July of 2022, a partnership was announced among aquatic restoration specialists Sea & Shoreline, the North Carolina Coastal Federation, the Town of Morehead City, and Quible & Associates to design a plan to restore and protect the island.

The project will include wave attenuation devices (WADs®) to reduce erosion and help rebuild the shoreline, seagrass plantings to improve water quality, and a living shoreline to stabilize beach areas.

The many benefits of this restoration project include:

  • Reducing erosion allowing shorelines to reestablish
  • Enhancing the coastal resilience of Morehead City
  • Increasing fish habitat and fishing opportunities
  • Increasing ecotourism opportunities
  • Enhancing seagrass and water quality
  • Preventing tree loss
  • Stopping shorebird habitat loss
  • Increasing carbon sequestration

Morehead City Mayor Jerry Jones said, “Protecting and restoring our island has been a priority for this town for years and now, thanks to the State Legislature, we finally have the funding to make it happen. We’re looking forward to working closely with the professionals from Sea & Shoreline, the North Carolina Coastal Federation, and Quible & Associates to see this project come to fruition.

As the town has not yet secured all funding required to fully complete the project, progress will be made incrementally with the first phase of the restoration estimated at $2 million.

The project is currently being permitted and construction is expected to start next year.

Sea & Shoreline, LLC is a Florida-based aquatic restoration firm that restores fresh and saltwater habitats to healthy and self-sustaining ecosystems.

Their services include seagrass restorations, oyster, coral and artificial reefs, dredging, living shorelines, vegetated retaining walls, shoreline stabilizations, and wave attenuation.

The North Carolina Coastal Federation is a member-supported 501(c)3 that focuses on protecting and restoring the North Carolina coast. Since 1982, the Federation has been in the field restoring miles of coastline; training and educating students, adults, and communities to take actions that result in cleaner coastal waters and advocating for an accessible, healthy, productive coast.

Created to give a united voice to the need for long-term coastal management, the Federation remains a collaborative, grassroots organization at its heart and brings together traditional and nontraditional organizations, government agencies and businesses in order to achieve what is best for the North Carolina coast and to leave a restored legacy of clean water for future generations. The Federation has 16,000 supporters and reaches almost 300,000 people directly each year.

Images courtesy of North Carolina Coastal Federation.

See North Carolina Coastal Federation website.

See Sea & Shoreline, LLC website.

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