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A massive sand removal project is underway at Jockey's Ridge

The naturally-shifting sand dunes are creeping closer to people's homes. Now, crews are working on relocating 200,000 tons of sand.

NAGS HEAD, N.C. — Towering sand dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the Outer Banks have gradually shifted.

To fix the problem, crews have started an incredible effort to move a portion of the tallest living natural sand dune system in the Eastern U.S.

During last year’s hurricane season, combined with winds from the north and south, have forced the dunes to migrate and creep closer to nearby homes and the Croatan Highway. 

Roga Compan’s home sits on the state park. He’s lived there since 2012 and has personally witnessed the dunes transform through the years.

“In 2018, it was just about 4-5 inches of sand and for two days, we were just digging the sand out of the pool,” said Compan. “I believe if you just let them take their course of nature, it will cover all of the houses in the back.”

While the barren land looks still, the dunes have shifted 3-6 meters. Every year, encroaching onto backyards. 

According to Joy Greenwood, Superintendent of Jockey’s Ridge State Park, the project’s goal is to relocate sand on the southeast part of that park to the north side. In total, 140,000 cubic yards of sand, which is roughly 200,000 tons, and 125 truckloads a day. It’ll take about 120 days to complete and will cost $1 million.

Greenwood said it’s needed, the last hurricane season caused the shift to pick up speed.

“My house is actually one of the houses in the biggest threat,” said Greenwood.

As an employee of Jockey’s Ridge, she’s required to live on the property. Her backyard has disappeared into the sand year after year. Greenwood has had to rebuild a fence at least three times to keep her dog from escaping the backyard. But the dunes keep sneaking in closer.

“It probably would take a couple of years to be right up against my house,” said Greenwood.

While hauling tons of sand away from homes will be safer in the long run, Compan said seeing the giant hole in front of his house is bittersweet.

“It’s just fun to see the moving of the sand dunes,” said Compan.

After all, he doesn’t seem to mind the mess left behind. 

“Oh, no! I’ll clean the pool, the cars, it’s fine,” said Compan.

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