Sand at hand for Wrightsville Beach

by Miriah Hamrick
Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wrightsville’s beaches will finally receive some sand. 

The cutter dredge sent by Weeks Marine to complete the delayed Coastal Storm Damage Reduction project arrived April 13. 

Best case scenario, pipes will pump the first batch of sand on the stretch between Arrindale Street and the Blockade Runner Beach Resort by Easter weekend. 

“They won’t be able to start pumping sand until, if we’re lucky, three or four days out. It’s a matter of how fast they can put out pipe and … if weather’s good,” said Wrightsville Beach Town Manager Tim Owens during an April 15 phone interview.

Owens said the project will start on the south end of the island and work up the beach. For four to six weeks, sections of beach will be closed.

“They’re staging it a little differently than they have in the past. They’re bringing barges to the shorefront and loading and unloading pipe whenever they leave,” Owens said.

Previously, teams would carry pipes down the beach as they worked.

“It’s going to be better. … By coming on shore, they’ll rope off 1,000 feet of beach, come in and unload, stockpile and put [sand] in place, then open that part of the beach,” Owens said.

The contractor is about one month behind schedule. Beach nourishment projects must be completed before summer sea turtle nesting season begins in May. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requested an extension through May 31, 2014, but Owens said the extension has yet to be officially granted. 

“It sounded like it may happen but until it actually is [approved], it’s a concern,” Owens said, adding if it were not approved, the project might have to stop and continue at a later date.

The pending environmental extension was discussed during an April 9 Wilmington-New Hanover County Port, Waterway, and Beach Commission meeting. 

New Hanover County Shore Protection Coordinator Layton Bedsole said it would be helpful if a stipulated course of action existed for instances when work must be performed outside the window.

 “We look forward to that project getting started quickly and finishing even quicker,” Bedsole added.

Commission members also discussed funding options for beach nourishment projects. 

Bedsole presented three options for stretching Room Occupancy Tax dollars to pay for beach nourishment through 2054 if federal and/or state money dries up.

Beach nourishment projects take place every three years at Carolina and Kure beaches and every four years at Wrightsville Beach. 

Currently federal and state dollars cover most of the projects, 65 percent and 17.5 percent respectively, with ROT funds picking up the remaining 17.5 percent. 

If Carolina Beach loses authorization this year, ROT dollars would cover the 82.5 percent of federal and state dollars lost. Wrightsville and Kure beaches are both covered through 2041 and 2047, respectively.

In that case funding all projects through 2054 would not be a problem, but Bedsole doubts federal dollars will last that long.

“I don’t think the feds are going to be around. It’s plan for the worst, hope for the best,” Bedsole said.

If state dollars remain, ROT funds would assume the 65 percent currently paid by federal dollars. The 17.5 percent paid by the state and the beach towns would pick up the last 17.5 percent. Bedsole said funding in that scenario would also last through 2054, albeit not as comfortably.

If federal and state dollars disappear, the ROT would pick up the slack — 82.5 percent of each $8 million project. Beach towns would continue to pay 17.5 percent.

Bedsole estimated funds might last until 2027 or 2028 in that situation.

email miriah@luminanews.com

 

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