In summer, tourists flock to the Outer Banks, barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina. The islands are famous for pristine, sandy beaches. But those beaches are washing away.

As wind and waves wash sand over the dunes, barrier islands naturally migrate. But homes, hotels, and roads do not. And rising seas and extreme storms are accelerating coastal erosion.

Dare County manager Bobby Outten says that without intervention, the erosion will continue.

“The migration will continue. And it’s just a matter of time before major arteries, major thoroughfares, are damaged or destroyed,” he says.

So in several towns with heavy erosion, Dare County has pumped in sand and widened beaches.

Next is the village of Avon, where a planned beach renourishment project will help protect Highway 12, the only road in and out.

“If Highway 12 is closed, you can’t get through Avon,” Outten says. “You can’t pick up trash. You can’t have EMS run. The fire trucks can’t run. We can’t provide any services. Nor can the people go to the grocery store, to their doctor’s appointments, to church, to do the things that they normally do.”

So while the project will cost at least $11 million, Outten says it’s critical to protect the town’s economy and safety.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media