ALTERNATIVE ACTIONS TO AMELIORATE INLET MIGRATION
Several alternatives were examined and developed by the County acting as the local project
sponsor for the primary stakeholder, the Mason Inlet Preservation Group. These alternatives
included the "no-action" alternative which would demolish the hotel and relocate homes to allow
the inlet to continue its expected southerly migration, "inlet closure" which assumed that the
inlet would close naturally over a 3-to-5 year period following demolition of the hotel, and "inlet
relocation" with 19 different configurations of the inlet relocation project. The no-action
alternative would allow the continued southerly migration of Mason Inlet and subsequent
destruction of private, public, and commercial property and any buildings remaining on that
property at a 30-yr cost of 7 million (PWD).
A somewhat similar alternative, inlet closure, is based on the assumption that the inlet would
ultimately close by natural processes aided by failed structures blocking the tidal flows, inlet
channel shoaling, and a continuous reduction in tidal prism. There are many thousands of acres
of coastal marsh and small tidal creeks surrounding this inlet that would be adversely influenced
by this alternative. As a result, the County did not support inlet closure as an acceptable solution
to the problem. The third alternative, inlet relocation, would close the existing Mason Inlet
channel at its present location adjacent to Wrightsville Beach and reopen Mason Inlet 2,800 ft
north. The benefits of inlet closure and relocation would prevent the future loss of property and
tax revenue and eliminate adverse environmental effects of reduced flushing in the AIWW
associated with the inlet closure and no-action alternative. Thus, the selected long-term solution
to the problem was inlet relocation.
Mason Inlet had a history of migration and change prior to 1997 when the inlet was
temporarily stabilized. Although the inlet was relatively stable between 1963 and 1977, this was
followed by a period when the inlet migrated south at rates of 48 to 210 ft/year between 1971
and 1996 (Fig. 3). Between 1996 and 1997, the inlet migrated at a higher rate of 0.4 m (1.1 ft)
per day, with episodic erosion events occurring during the spring tides (Fig. 4).
Fig. 3. Migration rate at Mason Inlet.
In recent years, land-falling hurricanes have caused major erosion on this North Carolina
coastline with three hurricanes impacting the site in 1996 (Bertha, Fran, and David), and with