ONLINE UPDATE: Beach commission moving forward on inlet dredging options

by Sam Wilson
Thursday, August 15, 2013

Beach renourishment, inlet dredging and critical habitat designations for sea turtles topped the list of items discussed during a meeting of New Hanover County's Ports, Waterways and Beaches Commission (PWBC).

“Wrightsville Beach’s project has good funding,” said Layton Bedsole, county shore protection coordinator, referring to the upcoming Coastal Storm Damage Reduction (CSDR) project at the Aug. 14 meeting.

Currently, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in the process of calculating the total volumes of sand needed to replenish the beach strand from its current levels to those specified in the permit. After that portion is complete, the county and Corps will determine exactly what the level of renourishment will be in the 2012-13 project. Bedsole hopes the project will start this December, with the project’s window ending March 31.

Four million dollars in funding from the Corps is in place, representing the federal government’s 65 percent contribution to the project. The other 35 percent is split between North Carolina and the county’s Room Occupancy Tax (ROT), totaling $2.15 million.

Carolina and Kure beaches will also be fully funded, although some creativity was required on the part of the Corps to find money for Kure Beach, which initially had not received any federal money.

“They started finding construction general projects that had some additional funds left over,” said Bedsole. “They were picking up 25 dollars here, 50 dollars there; it was nickels and dimes.”

Another funding problem has been posed by the periodic dredging of Carolina Beach Inlet. Bedsole said the historically federally-funded project has not been in a presidential budget since 2005, resulting in the region’s Congressional delegation piecing together money from such sources as the supplemental funding that followed Hurricanes Sandy and Irene.

In response, Wilmington-based Land Management Group was selected by the North Carolina Division of Water Resources to investigate the cost and scheduling of two permit options which could allow local authorities to fund and carry out dredging activities themselves. The state, through a higher registration fee on boat registrations approved earlier this year, would fund 50 percent of the cost of maintaining those inlets.

Currently, however, an agreement between local governments to help cover the cost of the inlet dredging has fallen by the wayside in some of their annual budgets. Carolina Beach Mayor Pro Tem Steve Shuttleworth emphasized the need for all of the municipalities that depend on the navigability of the inlet to help cover budget shortfalls.

“It’s not just Carolina Beach’s problem,” he said. “When it comes time we’re going to be pounding on the table asking everyone to chip in as much as they can. Without that inlet, it’s an economic impact that’s going to affect everyone.”

email sam@luminanews.com

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