Oak Island sand push

Two teams started pushing sand on Oak Island’s hurricane-ravaged beaches Saturday, with the goal of creating an emergency dune offering at least some protection, should another storm strike soon.

Called a “push,” the town’s permit allows heavy equipment operators to gather sand from a depth of one foot at mean low tide and push it to within about a foot of the former development line (also known as the line of stable beach vegetation).

Operators started at Middleton Avenue at low tide Saturday. One group of three bulldozers is moving west; the other trio is pressing east for a total of 7.6-miles (Oak Island has about 9.5 miles of ocean beach). The push won’t happen in the vicinity of four known remaining sea turtle nests. Also, crews won’t push in the immediate vicinity of Lockwood Folly Inlet.

Public Works Director Scott Thornall said the hope is build about a seven-foot-tall emergency dune. As of late Tuesday, crews had covered several miles where there was no dune at all after Hurricane Isasis.

Typically, two bulldozers move the sand landward, while a third positions and grooms the material. “It’s like a dance,” Thornall said.

The contractor has to close the portion of beach subject to pushing; beach-goers are asked to respect the temporary fencing and avoid the heavy equipment. Maps showing the intended areas for work each day are posted on www.oakislandnc.com.

The crews have to work on both sides of the single daily low tide that occurs during daylight hours.

Before work can start, the Oak Island Sea Turtle Protection volunteers call to certify that there’s been no activity in the planned area.

“We’re also on call if we’re needed,” said Coordinator Pam O’Rourke. “They have to stop work if there’s any sea turtle activity (such as a nest or hatching).”

Town Council approved a $460,000 contract for the work last Tuesday. At the pace they’re going, crews will likely be finished in about two weeks, Thornall estimated.