Protect Natural Functions of Floodplains & SFHAs

Nags Head has an abundance of natural areas and sensitive ecosystems that make it a unique place to live and visit.  Protecting and preserving these sensitive areas is not only critical to the natural function of the floodplain but a high quality of life enjoyed by those who live and visit. In addition, many of these complex ecosystems are interdependent upon one another and work together. 

Floodplains and wetland areas outside the floodplain are hydrologically important, environmentally sensitive, and ecologically productive areas that perform many natural functions. They contain both cultural and natural resources that are of great value to society. Flooding occurs naturally in coastal areas. Floodwaters can carry nutrient-rich sediments which contribute to a fertile environment for vegetation. Floodplains are beneficial for wildlife by creating a variety of habitats for fish and other animals. In addition, floodplains are important because of storage and conveyance, protection of water quality, and recharge of groundwater.

Marshes, near-shore ocean bottoms, beaches, and estuaries are all components that make up the coastal floodplain. Coastal beaches, dunes, banks, and tidal flats all play roles in protecting the land from destructive coastal storms, such as hurricanes. In coastal systems, aside from major storm events where waves may overrun large areas, inundation follows a largely predictable tidal cycle. Coastal floodplains are recognized for their importance to estuarine and marine fisheries. Estuarine wetlands are important for breeding, nursery, and feeding grounds for marine fisheries and coastal floodplains are important to waterfowl and other wildlife. Shallow coastal areas such as estuaries and beaches are significant for shellfish, reptiles, and other fin-fish. The water quality in these areas is affected by changes in sediments, salinity, nutrients, oxygen, temperature, and the addition of various pollutants. Rivers and creeks upstream that have an unimpeded connection to the sound and ocean provide breeding and feeding grounds for a variety of coastal marine life

Human development can take a toll on the natural functions of the floodplains if not properly managed. Development in the floodplains can cause decreases in water quality, loss of wildlife habitats, and an increase in severity and frequency of flood losses. Understanding the importance of maintaining the natural functions of floodplains can lead to better floodplain management approaches that will better protect the natural and beneficial functions of floodplains.

Wetlands, areas preserved as open space like Jockey's Ridge and Nags Head Woods, and undeveloped land all work to filter stormwater runoff and pollutants.  Wetlands and marshes along the edge of the Roanoke Sound not only filter pollutants against runoff but protect properties adjacent to the sound by dissipating storm surge.  

Benefits of Floodplains

Floodplains have many benefits. These benefits include:

  • Biological Resources: Natural areas in floodplains provide habitat, feeding, and breeding areas for waterfowl, animals, and fish.
  • Groundwater Recharge: Floodplains absorb rainwater recharging the aquifers below the ground’s surface.
  • Natural Flood Control: Floodplains provide a natural storage area for floodwaters.
  • Water Quality: Floodplains filter pollutants from runoff on streets and parking lots removing harmful pollutants before they enter the sound, ocean, or groundwater table.

What You Can Do Help

Help Us Keep Drainage Ditches & Waterways Open

The maintenance of the Town’s drainage ditches is an important flood preventive measure. Ditches, which become clogged with debris, can become a potential hazard in the event of a storm because they will not function properly. It is illegal to dump any material, soil, trash, yard waste, debris, etc. into a stream or ditch that would clog or stop the flow of Stormwater. Please report any dumping immediately to the Town’s Public Works Department at 252-441-1122.

Participate in the Town’s Septic Health Initiative

The Septic Health Initiative is a Town sponsored program that offers incentives to have your septic system pumped out and inspected regularly. Please contact Todd Krafft, Environmental Planner, at 252-441-7016 or by email for more information about this discounted program.

Sand Fencing

Installing and repairing sand fencing. Sand fencing helps to build the dune system which protects the homes behind them.

Leave No Trace

Leave no trace. Do not use marshes, streams, ditches, or other open bodies of water to dump trash or other materials. Large debris can create a dam like effect that floods the areas behind the blockage. In addition, any harmful chemicals can make their way into the sound and ocean polluting the areas that provide critical habitat for wildlife.

Stormwater on Residential Property
Stormwater on Residential Property (back)