US Tests 'Unique' Strategy on Homes Near the Ocean

National Park Service buys 2 in Outer Banks and plans to tear them down
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 16, 2023 9:50 AM CDT
US Tests 'Unique' Strategy on Homes Near the Ocean
Crews clear sand from a state road near Rodanthe in the Outer Banks of North Carolina in 2019.   (Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP)

Five homes have collapsed into the ocean over the last three years in the Outer Banks community of Rodanthe, North Carolina, notes the Virginian-Pilot. But that didn't prevent the sale of two adjacent—and "endangered"—homes in Rodanthe on the same day last week for more than $700,000 in total, per the Coastland Times. The buyer isn't a developer bent on waging battle with the encroaching ocean: It's the National Park Service. And instead of restoring the vacation homes, the NPS plans to quickly tear them down and create public beach access where they once stood, per the Island Free Press.

"The move marks a unique and possibly groundbreaking chapter in the deepening dilemma of what to do with imperiled coastal homes, which are becoming only more vulnerable amid rising seas, more intense storms, and unceasing erosion," per the Washington Post. The NPS used money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, set up in 1964 and funded by offshore oil and gas leasing, not taxpayers. This appears to be the first time the fund has been used to buy homes damaged by erosion in order to tear them down.

"Up until we did this, there didn't appear to be any tools in the toolbox for us to help mitigate the problems associated with these threatened oceanfront structures," David Hallac, superintendent of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, tells the Post. The big question now is whether the strategy can be scaled up and used elsewhere, and the Virginian-Pilot reports that the purchases are part of a study exploring the viability of that. As for Rodanthe itself, it has one of the highest rates of erosion on the East Coast, and about 80 other homes are considered at risk. "I thought we had more time," one of the owners of the newly sold homes tells the Post. (More Outer Banks stories.)

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