After a late start and unexpected setbacks delayed Wrightsville Beach’s 2014 coastal storm damage reduction project, the end is in sight.
The E.W. Ellefsen cutterhead dredge has vacumed up the last grains of sand, leaving contractor Weeks Marine to dismantle the pipes stretching across the newly expanded beach strand.
Working from the south end to the north, the crews are removing the pipes in stacks along the beach to be loaded onto barges floated onto the beach strand. Wrightsville Beach Town Manager Tim Owens estimated it would take one week to get all equipment off the beach, although if bad weather sets crews back, they could work through next week until June 13.
The project was originally slated to finish by May 31 but after a number of issues delayed the project, a new environmental extension through June 13 was granted.
Wrightsville Beach Park Ranger Shannon Slocum said the job involves more than simply breaking the pipes down and putting them in a pile.
“Before they stack the pipes, they blow all the moisture and excess water out and then they’ll cap them to make them airtight. Then they’re going to stack them. From what I understand, they’re going to load them onto boats from the beach and that’s how they’re going to take away quite a few of the pipes,” Slocum said during a June 4 phone interview.
Slocum spends most of his workdays at the beach, assuring rules are followed and maintaining order on the beach strand. He said the Weeks Marine crew has been a great partner, responding quickly to any questions or concerns.
“I think they did a great job. … They’ve been a good company to bring on the beach. They work well with others. Whenever there’s been a question, everyone’s just been a call away,” Slocum said.
Slocum was particularly impressed with the way crews responded to a wedding on the beach in late May. The wedding party was clearly disappointed about pipes at the wedding site, so workers did what they could to help.
“They went out and just brought some sand over real quick to cover the pipes up for a few minutes of pictures. That was something they didn’t have to do. They could have just trudged along with business as usual but they went out of their way to make it a special time for these folks,” Slocum said.
Owens agreed that he was impressed with the job done by Weeks Marine.
“[With] them having to get into a timeline we didn’t really want to get into, I think the project went pretty smoothly. They moved quickly once they finally did get in and set up,” Owens said during a June 3 phone interview.
Owens said one silver lining to the project’s late start was erosion from a nor’easter in late April was fixed, since crews were still working.
“Would it have been easier if they had done it in March? Probably. … Then again, in April we had a pretty bad erosion event so the later we waited, the better product we got. There’s a nice beach out there right now. Folks ought to be happy with the end result and that’s the most important thing,” Owens said.