The county is moving forward to secure authorization from the state to rebuild the beach strand following significant erosion events at Wrightsville Beach.
County shore protection coordinator Layton Bedsole was given the green light from the New Hanover County Commissioners to work with a local engineering firm to apply for a permit that would allow the county to perform coastal storm damage reduction projects, or beach renourishment, on Wrightsville Beach. Currently, renourishment projects at Wrightsville, Carolina and Kure beaches are federally authorized, and thus eligible for federal funding and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The permit sought by the county, which Bedsole calls a plan B for beach communities, allows the county to manage its own beach renourishment projects if federal authorization falls away.
“If there are no federal dollars, then currently, we have no authorization to build the project. Having this permit gives us the ability to build the project, if needed,” Bedsole said.
Historically, federal authorization for the storm mitigation projects brings substantial federal funding to the equation, with 65 percent of the project cost picked up by the federal government, and the remaining 35 percent split by the state and a pool of room occupancy tax collections dedicated to renourishment. Bedsole estimated the average cost for a beach renourishment cycle at $8 million. The final price of the 2014 project on Wrightsville Beach totaled more than $9 million.
Concerns about dwindling federal and state funding have motivated local beach town leaders to consider a number of efforts providing autonomy to complete the projects, especially to find a locally dedicated funding source for renourishment.
Facing the end of Carolina Beach’s 50-year federal authorization a few years ago, Bedsole said the Wilmington-New Hanover Port, Waterway and Beach Commission initiated an effort to secure local authorizations to perform the projects. The locally held Carolina Beach permit was secured first. The county’s Kure Beach permit is still in the final stages of review by the N.C. Division of Coastal Management.
Bedsole said the county paid around $300,000 to acquire the Carolina Beach permit and about $250,000 for the Kure Beach permit. The Wrightsville Beach permit carries a price tag of less than $35,000, Bedsole said, because the county already has access to samples of nearby sand used for placement on the beach from the 2014 renourishment. Like the earlier plan-B permits, the county will cover the cost for the Wrightsville Beach permit with room occupancy tax money.
The county will work with Coastal Planning and Engineering, the same company that prepared the applications for the Carolina Beach and Kure Beach permits, to submit an application for a Coastal Area Management Act major permit. Before the permit is awarded, a number of federal and state agencies, including the N.C. Division of Water Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will examine the application and request permit conditions.
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