By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
CAROLINA BEACH - A project that began earlier this year to dredge the Carolina Beach Lake remains on hold while the Town of Carolina Beach continues seeking permission from state and federal agencies to change the location where dredged material is deposited. Dredging was suspended last month when the Army informed the Town they were in violation of the original permit allowing them to place the dredge material at the Town's wastewater treatment plant off Dow Road. The plant is located on Army land leased by the Town since the 1970's.
The Town subsequently asked the Army to reconsider the situation. Last week Town Manager Michael Cramer informed the Council the Army's response was not positive.
Cramer found an alternative location for the dredge material to be deposited but now the Army Corps of Engineers is requiring review of the project permit and the new location north of Snow's Cut Bridge.
On September 15th, the Army officially notified the Town that no additional dumping of dredge material will be permitted on the property and the Town must "Restore the leased and easement areas, as well as other impacted sites on US Government property immediately."
The Town operates a waste water treatment plant on land leased from the Army since the 1970's on Dow Road on the west side of the Island. The land is part of the buffer zone for the U.S. Army Military Ocean Terminal at Sunny Point (MOTSU).
The terminal is one of two large volume deep-water ammunition terminals in the continental United States. Operations are located on the other side of the Cape Fear River in Brunswick County and the "buffer zone" occupies a large portion of Pleasure Island encompassing land in both Carolina Beach and Kure Beach on the riverside of the Island.
On August 29th the Army visited the facility and had concerns with the location on the property where dredge material from the lake is being stored. That prompted them to require the Town to stop hauling material to the property pending further discussions and research.
The Army had previously given permission to utilize a specific portion of the property and noticed another area was being used to store the dredge material.
Robert M. Jewell, Deputy Chief, Real Estate Division of the U.S. Army's Savannah District sent a letter to Mayor Dan Wilcox dated September 15th, 2017. Jewell wrote in the letter, "This Notice of Non-Compliance is provided for your information and action. On August 29th, 2017, an inspection was conducted of the premises granted to the Town of Carolina Beach pursuant to Lease No. DACA21-1-64-4180 (Waste Water Treatment Plant) and Easement No. DACA21-2-01-5239 (Pipeline and Brown Water Spray Field). The Town of Carolina Beach has conducted operations and utilized the area(s) in excess of the purpose authorized by the aforementioned agreements. The unauthorized activities included deposit of dredge spoil material on both the above named lease and easement areas. Additionally, unauthorized construction debris (dirt, asphalt, concrete, broken PVC and clay pipe, wood, etc.) was placed on the above named lease area, and other US Government fee owned property to the north of the Wastewater Treatment Plant."
Jewell explained the Town must take the following actions immediately:
• Cease and desist further dumping of dredge material and construction debris in or upon all US Government land, including, but not limited to, those lands under lease or easement; and
• Refrain from future deposit of dredge/construction debris of any kind; and
• Restore the leased and easement areas, as well as other impacted sites on US Government property immediately and complete the restoration to the satisfaction of the Commander, Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point (MOTSU). A date for completion of this required restoration shall be provided by separate written notice to the Town of Carolina Beach.
Jewell wrote in the letter, "Both Section 16 of the lease, and Section 5 of the easement are subject to the general supervision of the Installation Commander. The Installation Commander never authorized the above dumping of construction debris or dredge spoil material. Both dumping activities are not authorized as part either outgrant. Failure to correct these deficiencies may result in the Government pursuing further actions in accordance with the terms and conditions of our lease."
Town Manager Michael Cramer explained to the Council during their Tuesday September 12th, meeting, "On August 29th, we were alerted to a misunderstanding with MOTSU (Military Ocean Terminal at Sunny Point). Previously back in 2013 the Town had received authorization to take the spoils from the lake dredging and place them on MOTSU property at our waste water treatment plant. The initial placement was going to be in our old EQ (Equalization) Basin. They were basically going to fill the basin. In 2015 we brought to Council a recommendation that we really needed, for the sake of having a back up system to our waste water treatment plant, to go and rehab that old EQ Basin. We received approval from MOTSU to do that, but at that point the next step was naturally to get authorization on a new location for the spoils" at the wastewater treatment plant.
He explained, "That seems to have fallen through the cracks and basically MOTSU noticed that we were doing what we told them we would be doing all along - which is placing spoils on the property - and they became concerned."
Cramer explained, "We have been working with MOTSU for the past three weeks sending them plans - which we believe had been previously sent to them - to make sure they understand what materials are being placed on the property."
He explained, "We are approximately half way through the dredging project. And before we requested our contractor to suspend work until we could figure out what was happening with our relationship with MOTSU, they had been ramping up to almost 53 truck loads of material a day which is great. We would have been right on target to have finished the project and reseeded and reestablished the facilities and everything by January which would have been about a month ahead of schedule."
He said, "At this point we are looking at back up locations to put the spoils. Not knowing how long it will take MOTSU and the Federal Government to get us letters and respond to our statements back to them, we are looking right now for other locations that we can deposit the spoils. There are no other locations on the island... so the places we are looking at will be off-island locations. Hoping that we will be able to solidify a location by the end of this week and move forward... and continuing the project."
The Town Council awarded a bid to Civil Works Contracting in the amount of $2,766,338 during their January 10th, meeting to dredge the lake. The goal is to make the lake deeper to a consistent depth of 6' feet and improve capacity to hold storm water runoff that has traditionally caused flooding of surrounding properties and roadways. The total volume to be removed from the lake was estimated to be approximately 83,000 cubic yards of material. That number is now 94,667 cubic yards. The original completion date for the project was scheduled for February 9th, 2018.
Cramer explained Monday, September 18th, he was searching for locations that could meet the requirements for obtaining permits from the State and Army Corp of Engineers.
On Monday September 18th, Cramer said he was working on a "Letter of Reconsideration" to send to the Army outlining the history of the project.
Cramer said hauling the material to an alternate location will incur and additional cost in terms of time and fuel cost. Any increased cost would have to be approved by the Council in the form of a Change Order for the overall project.
He explained last week he met with the owner of land off Appomatox Drive and Carolina Beach Road that is willing to take the dredge material. The address for the site is 5917 Carolina Beach Road, Wilmington, NC.
The land owner is HD, LLC, a South Carolina Limited Liability Company, formerly known as Hoosier Daddy, LLC, a South Carolina Limited Liability Company, of 6025 Tarin Road, Wilmington, NC 28409. The land is located in an undeveloped portion of the Tarin Woods residential neighborhood.
Cramer said he hoped hauling of the material could resume the week of September 25th.
During the Council's Tuesday September 26th, meeting he indicated it will take longer to resume hauling because of additional review by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Following the September 27th meeting with the Army Corp of Engineers and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, Cramer explained to Council, "Mayor Pro Tem Pierce and I meet with the Corp of Engineers and the Local North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR) representatives today regarding our dredge permits. The main focus of the meeting was to determine exactly what needed to change in our permit to allow us to use more than one disposal location for the dredge material. Typically, the Corp and the State do not specify where fill material may be placed. They normally state that the permit holder is responsible for making sure that the disposal location has all of the appropriate permits."
He explained, "Our permit was issued with a specific location, because we had permission from MOTSU to place the spoils at the Wastewater Treatment Plant. Now we want the flexibility to place the materials in any permitted fill location. We had a great conversation and we anticipate receiving the revised Corp and State Permits next week. We will also be talking to the state erosion control officer to determine if we need to request a change to our erosion control permit to allow multiple locations. Neither regulatory agency has problems with the results of the soil tests performed in 2008. They agreed that the surrounding areas that drain to the lake have not appreciably changed and that the test are still relevant. All tests were below the state and federal limits and the fill can be placed on any “Upland” site. All around it was a positive meeting."
Cramer explained, "We did not get a positive response from MOTSU to our “Letter of Reconsideration”. They basically said that there would be no change in their determination" and, "I have also contracted with ECS to perform additional soil testing of the material at MOTSU and the remaining material in the lake. I am hopeful we will receive these results by October 6th. As we move forward, it is my recommendation that once the revised permits are in hand and the soil test results are in that we can move forward with establishing a new disposal site. I will continue to talk with MOTSU regarding their requests and keep you up to date on the subject."
During the Council's September 26th, meeting Councilman Steve Shuttleworth explained, "At the end of the day, typically the Corps has been interested in what we do down at the lake because they want to make sure we are not messing with the wetlands and that we are not disturbing the habitat there and that we are not depositing the material into another sensitive area."
He said, "We need to push the issue because it's costing us money."
Councilman Tom Bridges said the delay is costing the Town $3,500 per day.
Cramer explained, "The person that we were supposed to push it with has been on maternity leave. He comes back tomorrow. The first available meeting I have is tomorrow."
Shuttleworth said, "If we don't get a satisfactory answer what's the next step up the food chain?"
Cramer said, "You could go up the food chain with the Corps and look at that as a possibility. Some of that could be political others of that could be administrative staff."
Shuttleworth said, "At some point Michael, I know you certainly have the capability, but at some point this is getting out of control."
Cramer said, "I don't disagree with you and yes I to have been extremely frustrated and have on multiple occasions been willing to toss it to a political arena."
Shuttleworth said, "We had the same issue with the Corps on a variety of things... if we are not placing it in an environmentally sensitive area, we are putting it on private property and the recipient is agreeable to take it and their site is permitted for it and we've done an environmental analysis of the dirt and there is no contaminants, then government get out of our way."
Cramer said, "At some point there should be a limit to the number of times you can bite the apple. Yes sir. And that is my position."
Shuttleworth said, "I'm all for a plan B. I understand MOTSU's position on human interaction in the blast zone and I understand their desire to have a joint land use task force to study all of the different impacts from all of the different municipalities throughout the area. But in my limited tenure on Council we are now on our third colonel at MOTSU, six and a half years to get a bike path... we have a reasonable request to utilize a waste water treatment plant that was authorized 25 or 30 years ago. We are asking for non-invasive wells and water tanks. We've been approved and then they jerk us around and say you're not approved. They conveniently can't find correspondence that they were copied on as far as permits a number of years ago. All of a sudden they are coming back and saying 'we don't have a copy of that on file I don't recall seeing' it."
He explained, "The two guys over there that have rocked the boat time and time again. It took us three years to get a bike path because Fuller said we were cutting down trees in a maritime forest. It's ridiculous."
He explained, "It's not the new colonel. He only gets told what he's gonna get told by two individuals over there" and it's directives from the Army's Savannah office. He added, "And enough is enough. They are impacting our community in a demonstrable way. We have spent literally hundreds and hundreds of thousands of taxpayers dollars doing things to come into compliance with the permit and lease agreement we have that we stepped out of bounds on over the last 25 years."
Cramer explained Tuesday afternoon September 26th, the additional review of the project permit by the Corps of Engineers could take up to four weeks. He reiterated the soil at the lake was tested in 2008 and it's clean fill dirt. However, the Town is testing the soil again before moving forward.
Map showing the three "spoil" locations off Appomatox Drive. Cramer said last week trucks will enter Manassas Drive from Carolina Beach Road and enter the site from Appomatox Drive. The land is located in an undeveloped portion of the Tarin Woods residential neighborhood.