Like a shambling zombie reanimated from the grave, a proposal to build Oregon Inlet jetties is once more with us. This, after an almost three-decade-long debate that ended with the “final” rejection of the jetties in 2002.
The originally proposed 2-mile-long rock jetties were intended to make navigation safer but were discredited at all levels: engineering design, economics, environmental and fisheries. Not in the recent history of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has such a major project been so thoroughly discredited.
To justify the $100 million price tag of the previously proposed jetties, the Wilmington Corps of Engineers District made the desperate assumption in 1976 that fishing vessels would come all the way from New England through Oregon Inlet to land a certain type of catch in Wanchese.
The National Marine Fisheries Service was concerned that the already stressed local fishery would be endangered by the use of the larger and more numerous fishing boats that the Corps predicted would come. Although the Corps claimed otherwise, it was clear to outside experts that the jetties as designed would steal sand from adjacent beaches, resulting in severe long-term erosion and flooding damage to the villages (Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo) south of the inlet.
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