Wrightsville Beach was notified yesterday that the funding for a $9.5 million winter beach renourishment project was formally awarded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, fulfilling another four-year cycle for the project that replaces sand on the beach strand, which local leaders say is critical for the beach economy. The $9.5 million cost of the project includes state and local matches of 35 percent into the federal funding.
The contract for the project was awarded to Weeks Marine, Inc., a marine construction and dredging contractor based in Cranford, N.J. A start date on the project has not been set, but it is anticipated to begin in February or March, 2018. The same company completed the last Wrightsville Beach renourishment project in 2014.
Renourishment is a construction project where sand that has eroded from the beach is collected and redistributed back to the strand through the use of dredging ships, heavy pipes and bulldozers. The project generally takes one to two months, but weather can cause setbacks.
The county has prepared five models for beach sand distribution, most of which would occur to the north and south of Johnnie Mercer’s Pier.
While the funding secures the project through another cycle, questions of whether federal funding will continue to be available remains unclear. The federal government, through the Army Corps of Engineers, pays 65 percent, with state and local funds making up the rest. But costs of beach renourishment projects have risen faster than the funding allocated in the 1986 federal legislation, which was projected to last through 2036.
New Hanover County officials have previously estimated about $12 million in remaining available funds, enough for the 2018 cycle and possibly 2022. In addition to staff efforts to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the county has also contracted a lobbying firm to marshal support in Washington, D.C. for continued funding of local “coastal storm damage reduction” projects, the term government officials use to describe a series of beach erosion prevention projects.
Ocean Isle Beach, N.C. also received funding yesterday for a $3.8 million project, also awarded to Weeks Marine.