Hurricane damage along natural and hardened estuarine shorelines: Using homeowner experiences to promote nature-based coastal protection
Growing coastal populations, rising sea levels, and likely increases in the frequency of major storm events will intensify coastal vulnerability in coming decades. Decisions regarding how and when to fortify estuarine shorelines against coastal hazards, such as erosion, flooding, and attendant property damages, rest largely in the hands of waterfront-property owners. Traditionally, hard engineered structures (e.g. bulkheads, revetments, seawalls) have been used to protect coastal properties, based on the assumption that these structures are durable and effective at preventing erosion. This study evaluates the validity of these assumptions by merging results from 689 surveys of waterfront-property owners in NC with empirical shoreline damage data collected along estuarine shorelines after Hurricanes Irene (2011) and Arthur (2014). The data show: 1) homeowners perceive bulkheads to be the most durable and effective at preventing erosion, but also the most costly; 2) compared to residents with revetments and natural shorelines, property owners with bulkheads reported double the price to repair hurricane damage to their property and four times the cost for annual shoreline maintenance; 3) 93% of evident post-hurricane shoreline damage was attributable to bulkheads or bulkhead hybrids and a higher proportion of surveyed homeowners with bulkheads reported having property damage from hurricanes; and, 4) shoreline hardening increased by 3.5% from 2011 to 2016 along 39 km of the Outer Banks. These results suggest that bulkheads are not meeting waterfront property-owner expectations despite continued use, and that nature-based coastal protection schemes may be able to more effectively align with homeowner needs.
Smith, CS; Gittman, RK; Neylan, IP; Scyphers, SB; Morton, JP; Joel Fodrie, F; Grabowski, JH; Peterson, CH
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