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Southport will use state funds to stabilize its waterfront with revetments

Published: Dec. 15, 2021 at 8:19 AM EST
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SOUTHPORT, N.C. (WECT) - Shoreline erosion is a never ending battle for many beach communities along our coast, including Southport, a quaint coastal city known for its historic waterfront.

There used to be more beach serving as a buffer between mother nature and East Bay Street, but now storms, like hurricane Isaias in the summer of 2020, are able to do more damage. The sidewalk and even the road in front of Fort Johnston were dismantled by Isaias, a clear sign that more needed to be done to protect the waterfront not only from storm surge, but boat wake, high tides and the wear and tear of time.

“It’s the energy, the pounding, the constant pounding of the shoreline and it receding that takes the sand and that type of thing with it,” said Southport Mayor Joe Pat Hatem.

Help is on the way in the form of millions of dollars thanks to the recently passed state budget. In total, $7.8 million is headed to Southport, but $5 million of those funds will be used to ‘stabilize’ the city’s waterfront.

Mayor Hatem said solving the city’s erosion issues is all about prevention and finding long-term solutions.

“I’m a doctor — we want to prevent processes from happening, especially untoward ones,” Hatem said. “If we can use a preventative measure like these living shorelines to build up the marsh to protect the ecosystem, to improve the habitat, to protect the streets, the sidewalks people’s homes, the yacht basin then that’s what we need to do.”

City leaders believe the long-term solution is putting something called revetments in the water, which are essentially underwater barricades.

“These revetments, these reefs — they will help dissipate the energy in those waves so they come through not as strong,” Hatem said. “Then the sand that it brings with it — these revetments will block that sand from going back out so what they’ll see is a gradual buildup of our shoreline.”

Those who live and work in Southport say stabilizing the waterfront is more than just protecting beautiful views — it’s about protecting a way of life.

“Unfortunately I think these storms are just getting worse, so we need to prepare all these coastal towns and having that extra money to do that is just going to, you know, be able to make it so much more financially sound for everybody and all the businesses here,” said Jayne Kipke who works in Southport. “It’ll attract more businesses and more tourists to spend their money down this way too, so it really helps everybody.”

“If we do not have out waterfront, Southport would not be the robust town that it is period,” Hatem said. “It’s why people come — they shop here they stroll the streets.”

Not only stabilizing the waterfront, but the future of Southport’s coastal economy.

Five million dollars does not go as far as it used to, but Mayor Hatem said it’s a good start and that they will need more money to continue the project. There is no exact timeline on when the revetments will be placed in the water because there is more research to be done and details to be ironed out.

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