Friday, March 1, 2024

Shoring up North Carolina’s beaches

As residents and visitors descend on North Carolina’s beaches this summer, a local PNC Bank leader provides an inside look at what the preservation of our state’s treasured coast entails.


This is the twentieth in a series of informative monthly articles for North Carolina businesses from PNC in collaboration with Business North Carolina magazine.

Casey Turner vividly recalls the first time he witnessed the dramatic impact of an in-progress N.C. beach nourishment project. “As I looked toward the horizon, there was a clear dividing line between the existing beach and the nourished beach,” he says. “To my left was 50 feet of sand. To my right was just ocean.” It was a stunning visual that brought into focus the necessary work that Turner, managing director of PNC Bank’s Public Finance group in the Carolinas, and his team facilitate to help restore N.C. beaches – a critically important fixture in the state’s multi-billion-dollar tourism industry.

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, beach nourishment is designed to protect people and property from the effects of hurricanes and coastal storms by widening a beach and advancing the shoreline seaward. “Beach nourishment represents a necessary investment in the future of North Carolina’s coastal communities and economy,” says Turner.

North Carolina’s coastline is among the most nourished in the country, having received more than 160 million cubic yards of sand since the first N.C. beach nourishment project more than 80 years ago, according to data from the National Beach Nourishment Database.

Dare County’s beaches are among those slated for beach restoration this year to replace sand lost during 2019’s Hurricane Dorian. The replenishment of sand along more than 20 miles of shoreline will create a more effective buffer between the ocean and N.C. Highway 12, while resulting in a wider recreational beach and additional habitat for wildlife. Sand will be pumped ashore from an offshore dredge, with just 1,000 feet of beachfront directly impacted at any given time to minimize disruption to beach visitors. It’s a process repeated every 5-6 years to preserve the beautiful yet fragile beaches of the Outer Banks.

Turner and his PNC Bank business partners, including Brian Miller, a Raleigh-based credit product specialist, have led PNC Bank’s financing of no fewer than 20 beach nourishment projects spanning the N.C. coast, from Duck to Holden Beach, during the past eight years. And while the work facilitated by the Public Finance team extends far beyond the scope of beach nourishment, the output from these projects is among the most palpable applications, particularly in the summer months.

Rarely straightforward, each beach nourishment project is inherently different, based on a wide array of factors – from sourcing sand with a grain size similar to the sand being replenished, to understanding land and shoreline use patterns, to providing for environmental protections. Another essential element, and one that the PNC Bank team is positioned to address, is providing the short-term local funding to cover the costs of these projects, which in the long term are largely financed by disaster assistance grant funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and storm mitigation grant funding from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.

Because federal funding for beach nourishment is typically distributed on a reimbursable basis upon the completion of a project, the PNC Bank team develops short-term borrowing solutions to help finance the capital-intensive work, while providing repayment options that meet the unique needs of the borrowing jurisdictions.

“Because PNC Bank is already deeply embedded in these communities, our team is well positioned to work with each county, town or special municipal district – and the State of N.C. – to structure a customized financing solution for each project,” says Turner. “Ultimately, this work helps create a more resilient state and provides the opportunity for PNC Bank to support the communities that mean so much to us.”


PNC Bank’s role in beach nourishment projects is just one example of how banking and environmental sustainability can intersect, and illustrates a key aspect of its sustainability and climate change strategy: helping clients finance their sustainable operations.

“We believe in not only managing our own operations in an environmentally sustainable manner, but also in doing our part to tailor financial solutions for clients with sustainability in mind,” says Miller. “Providing financing and underwriting debt with an environmentally sustainable use of proceeds helps us create impact for our clients and communities while also addressing environmental considerations, including climate change.”

In 2021, the PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. announced a five-year, $20 billion commitment in support of environmental finance as an extension of its long-standing support for the transition to a low-carbon economy. This environmental finance goal complements its current Community Benefits Plan, which pledges $88 billion in loans, investments, and other financial support to bolster economic opportunity for low- and moderate-income people and neighborhoods, as well as people and communities of color over a four-year period beginning Jan. 1, 2022.

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