By Staff Writer
As the expiration of the 50-year Carolina Beach coastal shore damage reduction project approaches, the Ports, Waterways and Beach Commission is exploring numerous ways to continue the project in the event there is no federal funding.
Carolina Beach will be the country’s first 50-year project to expire, but a U.S. House Bill language change request submitted this week by Congressman Mike McIntyre, attempted to grant another 10 years to develop a plan for all projects imminently facing expiration.
McIntyre sent a request to the House Appropriation Subcommittee on Energy and Water on March 20 requesting that shore protection projects expiring in 2013 continue beyond the 50-year limit. With the letter he attached a copy of the proposed change to the statutory language that would extend those expiring projects by 10 years.
McIntyre stated that his request, "arises because of the lack of any policy to determine the procedure for evaluating a shore protection project." He added that the language he proposed would allow Congress and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers time to develop an evaluation procedure.
"Congressman McIntyre submitted a request through the energy and water budgeting process to extend not just the Carolina Beach project that is set to expire, but there are a number of projects around the country that are nearing the end of their life cycle," said assistant county manager Chris Coudriet after last week’s PWBC meeting. "He has asked that committee extend those through the budgeting process for an additional 10 years."
Coudriet wrote in an email on April 24 that the "budget bill rolled out at the committee level did not include the congressman’s point of advocacy."
"To my knowledge, the congressman’s effort is still working its way through the process," said Layton Bedsole, chairman of the PWBC on Tuesday, April 24.
Even with the possibility of a 10-year extension of the Carolina Beach project, the board members continued to exhibit the same sense of urgency that fueled the creation of a contingency plan and interlocal agreement to locally fund the project. County Commissioner Rick Catlin said, "Even if that happens, we’ve still got to panic and stay busy. It’s high on our radar."
Bedsole said that the 10-year extension would be a best case scenario and would allow time to find a process that could keep the Carolina Beach project alive without having to consider it a new project.
The PWBC is currently working to pass a Memorandum of Agreement between the county, the state and the Army Corps of Engineers that would allow the corps to accept local, contributed funds for coastal shore damage reduction projects.
The timeline for the MOA is fairly tight, Bedsole explained, in order to develop the plans and specifications to start on the Carolina Beach project later this year. The commission is monitoring the progress of the MOA as Marlowe and Associates lobbies Congress in Washington, D.C.
Bedsole said the MOA will likely become the template for other coastal area projects that expire in the next 10 years.
If the 10-year extension is not granted and the MOA is reached after its summer deadline, there has been discussion about tapping the county’s general fund to initiate a general reevaluation report for Carolina Beach, though these funds are not normally used. Bedsole said this scenario is at the bottom of a list of options but it is being considered.
The PWBC is continuing to work out a contingency plan that would allow the county to attain permits to implement beach nourishment projects and simulate the permits the Army Corps of Engineers presently uses.
"I am of the opinion that the county still should have permits of its own as a fallback to whatever might or might not come from the Feds," Bedsole said. "Having those permits in my opinion is an insurance policy."