A study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has concluded that allocating money for Wrightsville Beach renourishment projects generates a good return on the investment. However, the study represents only one element of the process that will determine whether federal money will be available for coastal storm damage projects.
The Army Corps of Engineers last week released the benefit-cost ratio for Wrightsville Beach beach renourishment projects at 7.62-1, far exceeding the ratio of 2.5-1 that several officials said was the target for being competitive against other projects. In a similar study, Kure Beach scored 6.08-1 on its benefit-cost ratio.
“We’ve hurdled the cost-benefit challenge, which we had to surpass,” said Layton Bedsole, New Hanover County shore protection coordinator, adding that the cost-benefit study had to be performed every five years. The study looks at the cost of dredging and returning sand to area beaches against the potential losses for flooding, erosion and wave damage.
Officials noted the study was one of only several “hurdles” facing Wrightsville Beach’s efforts to maintain federal funding for beach renourishment. One of the main challenges facing Wrightsville Beach continues to be the 50-year federal authorization originally placed on renourishment projects. Carolina Beach is also facing an imminent deadline on these time limits.
Rep. David Rouzer, R-N.C. 7th congressional district, said the Water Resources Development Act currently under consideration by the House of Representatives includes provisions that would help area beaches compete for future project funding from the Army Corps of Engineers. The House bill grants Carolina Beach a three-year extension to compete for more project funding and would expedite Army Corps of Engineers studies for both Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach.
“The language is favorable over the long term,” Rouzer said. “It all comes down to the availability of dollars.”
The WRDA bill is cleared through the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, of which Rouzer is a member. Rouzer said that ultimately, the inclusion of provisions that would benefit area beaches will come down to negotiations with the Senate on its version of the bill, which has no provisions addressing area beaches. Those negotiations will occur after the November general elections, he said.
Meanwhile, Wrightsville Beach Town Manager Tim Owens said that while the cost-benefit ratio “lowered the overall long-term cost estimate,” local officials are focused on addressing other challenges to extending federal funding for beach renourishment. Owens said Wrightsville Beach is eligible for possibly two more beach renourishment cycles, but may only qualify for one more. The last beach renourishment project for Wrightsville Beach took place in 2014.