2022 journal article
Investigation of Barrier Island Highway and Marsh Vulnerability to Bay-Side Flooding and Erosion
JOURNAL OF MARINE SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING, 10(6).
Coastal highways along narrow barrier islands are vulnerable to flooding due to ocean and bay-side events, which create hazardous travel conditions and may restrict access to surrounding communities. This study investigates the vulnerability of a segment of highway passing through the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge in the Outer Banks, North Carolina, USA. Publicly available data, computational modeling, and field observations of shoreline change are synthesized to develop fragility models for roadway flooding and marsh conditions. At 99% significance, peak daily water levels and significant wave heights at nearby monitoring stations are determined as significant predictors of roadway closure due to flooding. Computational investigations of bay-side storms identify peak water levels and the buffer distance between the estuarine shoreline and the roadway as significant predictors of roadway transect flooding. To assess the vulnerability of the marsh in the buffer area, a classification scheme is proposed and used to evaluate marsh conditions due to long-term and episodic (storm) stressors. Marsh vulnerability is found to be predicted by the long-term erosion rate and distance from the shoreline to the 5 m depth contour of the nearby flood tidal channel. The results indicate the importance of erosion mitigation and marsh conservation to enhance the resilience of coastal transportation infrastructure.