RODANTHE, N.C. (WAVY) — Work has begun to proactively tear down two houses on the Outer Banks before they fall into the sea like many others have in recent years.

On Wednesday, crews from North Carolina-based W.M. Dunn Construction, LLC demolished the first of two homes at 23292 and 23298 East Beacon Road in Rodanthe.

The thought is to contain and minimize the amount of debris that would have resulted if the homes fell into the ocean by themselves.

The homes at 23292 and 23298 East Beacon Road in Rodanthe that are being torn down. Crews started tearing down the one on the right on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023 (National Park Service photo)

It’s all being done through a pilot project from the National Park Service that doesn’t use taxpayer funding. Instead it draws funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which invests earnings from offshore oil and gas leasing “to acquire lands, waters, and interested therein necessary to achieve the natural, cultural, wildlife, and recreation management objectives of the National Park Service.”

The owners of the homes meanwhile receive fair market value for the properties, the Park Service says.

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W.M. Dunn is being paid $72,500 to remove the two properties over the next month, and afterwards the adjoining lots will be reopened to the public.

This all comes after five oceanfront homes in Rodanthe collapsed into the ocean in the past few years. Here’s the timeline shared by the Park Service.

May 29, 2020: An unoccupied house collapsed during the overnight hours at 23238 Sea Oats Drive, Rodanthe.

February 9, 2022: On a calm winter day, an unoccupied house collapsed at 24183 Ocean Drive, Rodanthe.

May 10, 2022: During a multi-day nor’easter, an unoccupied house collapsed at 24235 Ocean Drive, Rodanthe. The collapsed occurred during the early morning hours.

May 10, 2022: During a multi-day nor’easter, an unoccupied house collapsed at 24265 Ocean Drive, Rodanthe. The collapse occurred during the early afternoon hours.

March 13, 2023: During inclement weather, an unoccupied house collapsed at 23228 East Point Drive, Rodanthe.

Going forward, the National Park Service and local leaders are looking at possibly expanding the buyout program, but Dare County Manager Bobby Outten said it doesn’t seem to be a long-term solution amid ongoing beach erosion and future sea level rise.

“It’s a solution for those houses that are today imperiled, but it’s not a solution for those houses that are imperiled in five years or in 10 years, because the sand and the erosion is gonna continue to move to the west,” Outten said. “Just buying the oceanfront houses doesn’t solve the problem for what would then be the next row of oceanfront houses.”

Outten says the county can’t afford to pay the millions of dollars for beach nourishment, in which sand is pumped in to build up the beach, for this stretch of oceanfront in Rodanthe. Federal funding however might be available, particularly when it comes to protecting NC Highway 12 that sits just beyond those threatened homes. You can read more about the push in Chris Horne’s special report.