Lumina News file photo
A mix of sand and water dredged from Masonboro Inlet blasts out of a pipe onto Wrightsville Beach on Feb. 23, 2010.
Representatives from coastal North Carolina counties convened in the nation’s capital for the annual North Carolina Water Resource Congress while the countdown to the federal sequester cuts hung over Washington, D.C.
The New Hanover County delegation included shore protection manager Layton Bedsole, mayors David Cignotti of Wrightsville Beach, Bob Lewis of Carolina Beach and Dean Lambeth of Kure Beach; and councilmembers Steve Shuttleworth of Carolina Beach and Emilie Swearingen of Kure Beach.
During the delegation’s three-day stay from Feb. 25-27, scheduled meetings included audiences with Congressman Mike McIntyre, Congressman Walter Jones, and staffers from senators Kay Hagan and Richard Burr.
In a statement issued on Monday, March 4, McIntyre expressed his willingness to fight for funding Coastal Storm Damage Reduction, or CSDR, projects.
“Working together with local officials and local communities is key to our success, and I very much appreciated the opportunity to do that last week,” McIntyre stated. “In the meeting with Mayor Cignotti, I assured him that I would continue to do all I can to help the Wrightsville Beach renourishment project.”
With the decreasing availability of funding from the federal and state governments during the last several years, Bedsole said he did not hear anything that surprised him during the Water Resource Congress. However, he was concerned that there was discussion of postponing funding for projects approved after 2012.
“I did find it disheartening that they’re already talking about a continuing resolution for fiscal year 2014 … especially if they tie any funding, based on that continued resolution, to only projects that were funded in FY 2012,” Bedsole said. “The way I interpret that is if you had a funded project in FY 2012 and they tie another continued resolution to FY 2014 back to those projects, then any project that should have been in the mix in 2013 and 2014 may be held hostage or not get funding.”
Despite those concerns, Bedsole thought the New Hanover County delegation presented a strong, unified voice in the meetings.
“We made our case and I think we made it well,” he said. “I’m proud to say our delegation really seems to want to work together and I don’t know that every delegation can say that.”
Wrightsville Beach Mayor David Cignotti echoed Bedsole’s assessment of the delegation’s cohesiveness and attributed some of it to New Hanover County creating the shore protection manager position.
“I think we made a good decision in creating the sand manager position with Layton Bedsole,” Cignotti said. “I think he has a good grasp of what the situation is and hopefully that will work to our benefit this year.”
Primarily concerned with Wrightsville Beach’s CSDR project scheduled for the fall and winter of FY 2014, Cignotti said the political stagnation in Washington is causing long- range funding problems.
“I could tell there was some frustration with some of the people we talked to just with how dysfunctional it is in Washington, D.C. right now,” he said. “To not be able to plan ahead and that everything is being done by emergency funding right at the last second for the last several years, they said that is not good for anybody.”
Cignotti and Bedsole said they knew they would not come away with any immediate answers to their questions but that making the trip was important for keeping the needs of coastal North Carolina fresh in the minds of its congressional representatives.
“Of all four of the representatives we talked to I got the feeling that they understood that water projects are very important to our state and that Coastal Storm Damage Reduction projects aren’t just about protecting the homes by the water but also about protecting the economy and the tax base,” Cignotti said. “After Superstorm Sandy, I think that was a good example of showing how communities that have those projects fared very well; the ones that didn’t are what billions of dollars are being spent on now.”
If the political atmosphere in Washington remains the same, Cignotti said he would not expect to see funding for the 2014 Wrightsville Beach CSDR project until late in the planning process.