Public beaches are defined as anything below the high-tide line, and rising ocean levels will likely push the high-tide inland.
So what happens when private oceanfront erodes, and where's the line between public and private property rights?
Those issues and other related topics will be discussed this week the state Coastal Resources Commission meets in Greenville.
Although questions remain about how human activity may be affecting the ocean level, there's general scientific consensus that the level is rising and will likely increase as the century goes on.
Experts say North Carolina's coast may be especially vulnerable because its beaches are sinking at the same time.
The commission is trying to determine what roles state agencies should play in those and other related situations.