Wrightsville escarpment target of transect surveys

by Cole Dittmer
Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Staff photo by Joshua Curry

The erosion of the beach strand continues, causing Wrightsville Beach Public Works to consider transect surveys to improve beach re-nourishment projects.

The New Hanover County Port, Waterway and Beach Commission agreed to investigate the possibility of each beach town conducting beach transect surveys on an annual or more frequent basis to make each Coastal Storm Damage Reduction project more efficient. 

Although the United States Army Corps of Engineers already conducts beach surveys before and after each CSDR project every three years, North Carolina Sea Grant coastal construction and erosion specialist Spencer Rogers said these more frequent transects of the beach strand could result in a large cost savings in the long run. 

“You are spending $3.5 to $4 million in sand this year so shouldn’t you spend a little money to see where it is going and why?” Rogers said. 

In these surveys, Rogers said coastal engineers would survey the beach strand and out into the ocean to track trends in the movement of the sand and to pinpoint which areas of the beaches lose the most. With the formation of the USACE engineered beach projects of Wrightsville, Carolina and Kure, Rogers said these types of surveys are also a requirement. 

“It is apparently part of the terms in the conditions of your property coordinating agreement and that was signed by the towns … whenever you started the projects,” he said. “The requirement has been there a long time, but maybe everybody has forgotten about it.” 

Additional funding that could be available to the maintenance of these CSDR projects includes Federal Emergency Management Agency post-storm reimbursement funding, like the $60 billion approved for areas affected by Hurricane Sandy, he said. 

“[FEMA] will not reimburse for a [USACE] project but they will reimburse for an amazing array of smaller projects that have been engineered and designed by local governments,” Rogers said. 

Discovering the trends these surveys would show would be beneficial in determining if beaches could go longer without a CSDR project and in bringing the different CSDR project cycles of each beach together into one cycle. 

“You really need to optimize your maintenance cycle, which is one of the biggest things surveying could do,” Rogers said. “If you can reduce the mobilization costs to just one year then you significantly save.” 

New Hanover County Shore Protection Coordinator Layton Bedsole said for this year’s CSDR projects in Carolina and Kure beaches, the mobilization cost was $5 million. Bedsole said he expects the surveys would cost the county $80,000 to $100,000 annually for all three beaches. 

Rogers said an example of how CSDR projects could benefit from the additional information is the high level of escarpment in the middle of Wrightsville’s beach strand, which is due for its next CSDR project in the spring of 2014. 

“There are clearly erosion scarps at that higher berm that are a nuisance for people, but it is also evidence that the area is not getting maintenance fast enough or enough sand in the budget when the projects do come,” he said. 

At the request of the PWBC, Bedsole will draft a Request For Proposals for the surveying work that will be submitted for the PWBC’s approval at its June meeting. 

email cole@luminanews.com 

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