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Manager Recommends Scale Back Lake Dredging Project In Face Of Rising Cost Due To Violation Of Army Lease

Featured A project to dredge the Carolina Beach Lake remains on hold after the U.S. Army demanded the Town stop hauling dredge material to land the Town has leased from the Army since the 1970's for a wastewater treatment plant. Town Manager Michael Cramer is working to secure an alternate location in order for work to resume. Cramer recently asked the Army to reconsider and the Army declined his request. A project to dredge the Carolina Beach Lake remains on hold after the U.S. Army demanded the Town stop hauling dredge material to land the Town has leased from the Army since the 1970's for a wastewater treatment plant. Town Manager Michael Cramer is working to secure an alternate location in order for work to resume. Cramer recently asked the Army to reconsider and the Army declined his request.

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - Dredging of the Carolina Beach Lake was suspended last month after the U.S. Army expressed concerns about dredge material removed from the lake being deposited at the wrong location on Army land off Dow Road.

Carolina Beach Town Manager Michael Cramer informed Town Council at their October 10th, meeting the cost to complete the $2.7 million dollar project as originally  planned could now increase by as much as $500,000 due to additional time and distance to haul away the dredged material to an alternate location. Cramer presented an alternative to reduce the amount of material dredged from the lake from 83,000 cubic yards to 55,000.

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. 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 and the Army Corps of Engineers  required additional 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 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.

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' to 8' feet and improve capacity to hold approximately 16 million gallons of 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. The original completion date for the project was scheduled for February 9th, 2018.
During the October 10th, meeting Cramer explained, "Back in 2013 we did get authorization from MOTSU to place our spoils from the lake dredging project on to the leased property we have at the wastewater treatment plant. We recommended a particular location on that property which was the old equalization EQ basin. In 2015 we asked MOTSU if we could take that old EQ basin and rehab it so we would have emergency capacity for our wastewater treatment plant. They approved and agreed. And we implemented that project. The one thing we didn't do was ask to move the spoils location another 100' feet."

He explained, "In their evaluation which they do on a regular basis of the property they recognized there was a discrepancy between what they had approved before and where we were putting the spoils. They asked us until we got authorization to do that, to stop putting spoils on the property. Since that time, that was August 29th, we have been issued a letter from MOTSU regarding that. I've responded to that letter and asked for them to reconsider their recommendations to us on how to correct that problem and I've asked that we be able to continue disposing on the property and then once we get through our project, sit down and negotiate out anything that we need to try and resolve their concerns. To date that conversation has not been very fruitful. In the meantime we have been looking for alternative sites to place the spoils for the dredge project."

He explained, "One of the difficulties of that has been the fact that when we went through the permitting process with the Army Corp of Engineers and the State and the State Erosion Control members, they gave us authorization to dispose of the material in a specific location. We knew the specific location which was MOTSU or wastewater treatment plant. Because we wanted to change that and find other disposal locations we had to go back through the process to review the permits and make sure that we had the proper language in there to give us the flexibility to put the spoils anywhere that we can find a permitted, state and federally legal upland site. So we have been scouring properties south of Monkey Junction mainly for the proximity to the Island trying to find locations that need clean fill."

He explained, "Some of the difficulties with finding those locations is everybody wants clean fill that is dry. Our clean fill is not dry. It's wet. It's coming directly out of the lake. So you need more room in order to spread it out and dry it out before you can use it. So that has shown to be a challenge. To date we have narrowed down our candidates for being able to find somebody that would like to utilize the soil. We have also received our revised permit form the Corp of Engineers that says we can place it at any upland site that has state and federal permits. So that gives us that flexibility. North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality has approved and said there is no need to change their permit and State Erosion Control is happy with what we have been doing and as long as the location where we want to put the spoil material has a valid erosion control permit they don't have an issue with it. So we are making progress. It's steady and slow progress, but it is progress. I am hopeful that we can go and come to a fill agreement with the property owner to go and take the spoils. Hopefully this week have Civil Works Contracting... start preparing the property which could take a week to ten days to prepare the property so it can receive the material. Our goal is by the end of the month to have us moving spoils from the lake and continue on with the project."

He explained, "Naturally I don't want to increase the cost of our project. Our project is approximately a little bit less than $2.8 million dollars to dredge the lake. Our intent was to dredge approximately 83,000 cubic yards of material from the lake. That would give us the ability to hold  as much as 16 million gallons of storm water in that facility. Which would be an extreme benefit to us in being able to alleviate flooding and have protection from hurricanes... at the current time we have removed approximately 30,000 cubic yards of material to the wastewater treatment plant. Which is approximately six million gallons of water capacity that we have gained in that reservoir to date. What my recommendation would be, as we go forward with this, because we will have to go farther away from the island to dispose of this soil, it's going to cost more to do that. In order to keep within budget, my recommendation is to reduce the amount of material that we take out of the lake which would mean instead of taking out 83,000 cubic yards, we would take out say approximately 55,000 which is another 25,000 cubic yards of material. The initial goal was to try and make the general depth of the lake between six and eight feet. This would basically make it so it would be somewhere between five and six feet, seven, depending on the lay of the land in the lake."

Cramer explained, "If we did that, and we had 55,000 cubic yards that had been removed, we would have 11 million gallons of capacity in that structure."
That would be approximately a 30 to 33% percent reduction in the amount of material originally planned for removal.

Councilman Steve Shuttleworth said, "So we lose a third of what we originally talked about in the project. In order to complete the project under what we currently had anticipated, how much would the cost of that be?"

He explained, "If we went ahead and got the full 83,000 yards out of there Michael and found a place to put it, how much over budget would we be?"

Cramer explained, "We are estimating somewhere in the $500,000 range." He said that was not his recommendation, but spending additional funds would be an option.

Shuttleworth said, "Originally we approved a project to do 83,000 cubic yards to solve a storm water problem for the community and create enough capacity. And at one point you guys felt strongly enough that we needed that amount of capacity. You didn't come to us originally and say we only need 11 million gallons, we need all of it. We went the distance and it went higher than our first bid. The first couple of times we were at two million now we are at $2.7 and now we've got another $500,000 problem."

Shuttleworth pointed out the lake has never been dredged prior to this project, "So if we are going to do it, do we do it right or do we do 60% of the project verses 100% of the project?"

Council member Leann Pierce said the Town asked the Army Corp to leave the figure of 83,000 cubic yards in the permit so if the Town wanted to come back and finish removing material from the lake at a later date, they could still perform that work.

Shuttleworth said, "The overage is going to be if we have to ship it all off the island."

Cramer explained, "There are a couple of things. One is removing the material that is existing in the lake and then if we are forced by MOTSU to remove the material from the MOTSU property that will be another difficulty."

Cramer said the MOTSU officials could require the Town to remove the material already placed on the property at the wastewater treatment plant.

Cramer said the Town hired a company to do another set of tests on soil samples taken from the lake and from material already placed on MOTSU property and the results show the material is "clean fill" and, "Most of everything in the chemical analysis was under the state limit. There was one outlier and that's a naturally occurring element that is in all soil down here." That naturally occurring element is arsenic.

He said, "the other aspect of it was the grain size and what it could be used for... so all that came back in a positive manner."

Cramer said part of the increased cost is transporting the material a longer distance. He said, "Basically we are going from less than two miles round trip of disposal to more than 15 miles. Probably instead of eight minutes to collect, dump and come back to the job site, it takes them about an hour. At least that's the test results we've had in running trucks up there."

Prior to suspending the project, the contractor was ramping up to almost 53 truck loads of material a day and was ahead of schedule. Increasing the distance from round trips of two miles at eight minutes to 15 miles at one hour would drastically reduce the number of trips per day.

The Council discussed how to best approach MOTSU officials to request they reconsider the situation due to the cost and impact to taxpayers. Cramer said he will try to reach out to the Colonel at Sunny Point and attempt to schedule a meeting with him.

Cramer explained, "In the meantime, I can't help but think that we need to go and move material some place else... and if nothing else, continue down that road of the 25,000 cubic yards I was talking about and maybe we do break something loose in MOTSU or at that time Council can come back and say you know what, we want the project to continue and we want to go and get a loan for the other $500,000 or whatever the case may be. Some of it is urgent. Trying to get us moving again is urgent because yes, it does cost us money each day. As for the delay cost, we are in negotiations with the contractor. We've sat down with them several times and talked to them about the cost of this. They've thrown out several proposals and we've beat them back a couple of times. So we are still in negotiations. The contractor also wants to do it and finish the job and do it right."

He added, "It is costly to try and work through unforeseen circumstances like this."

Councilman Tom Bridges said, "I'm concerned about the cost, but to delay taking the full scope of the project and come back later would be more expensive than $500,000."

Cramer said, "I don't believe that we really can. I would agree with Mr. Shuttleworth that you get one bite at the apple. If we decide to only do 55,000 instead of 83,000 cubic yards, that's all that you are going to do probably for another 20 years honestly. Because it's a difficult project to manage and collect and it is expensive. If we go to 83,000 and fulfill the contract, yes it will be costly now but once again you aren't going to be doing this again for another 20 years or so."

Councilman Gary Doetsch pointed out the Town recently installed additional out fall pipes that allow more water to be pumped at a faster rate to a drainage ditch leading to the Cape Fear River and through another line to the ocean. He said, "We are better apt to stay ahead of the flooding there even though we don't have the capacity we were shooting for."

Cramer said, "We have two out fall pipes that go to Henniker's Ditch. We can evacuate that lake at it's current capacity twice as fast now. If we have an emergency we also have the emergency overflow to the ocean. So if we were to go and cut back and only do 55,000 instead of 83,000, you would still have the capacity of 11 million gallons more than you had before. I think that is a positive."

Mayor Dan Wilcox said, "Alright, we have a bunch of irons in the fire and we will keep working on it."

No definite date was given for when dredging at the lake would resume.

A few weeks ago Cramer  explained 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.

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.