By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
CAROLINA BEACH - Town Manager Michael Cramer said Monday October 30th, that a meeting earlier that day between Town officials and U.S. Army Colonel Marc Mueller regarding placing dredge material from the Carolina Beach Lake on Army property was productive and positive.
Cramer sent a letter to the Town Council on October 24th, offering a detailed update on a suspended project to dredge the Carolina Beach Lake. He also apologized stating, "I am truly sorry that a decision I made has negatively impacted the Town, and I am focused on solving the problems I have helped create."
Dredging of the lake was suspended August 29th 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.
The Town continues searching for an alternate location to deposit dredge material from the Carolina Beach Lake. Earlier this month the Town was notified that owners of one alternate location changed their minds about taking on the material following the latest round of soil tests which showed higher levels of arsenic. That land is located north of Snow's Cut Bridge in the undeveloped portion of the Tarin Woods residential neighborhood.
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.
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 located 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."
In Cramer's October 24th, letter to Mayor and Town Council he explained, "As most are aware, the Town suspended the Lake Dredging Contract on August 29th due to MOTSU's objection to the location of the spoils material disposal. Previously, MOTSU awarded the Town permission to place spoils material in an old basin on their property. Subsequently, we requested and were granted permission to rehabilitate that old basin, resulting in my decision to place the spoils material in an adjacent location approximately 100' from the basin location. I did not bring this decision to Council or advise Council of my decision, as I felt it was a reasonable decision under the circumstances. The basis of MOTUS's concern is my failure to obtain permission for the alternate disposal location. As a result, MOTSU requested that we stop placing material on their property. Since that time, Town staff has worked on discussions with MOTSU regarding approval for the alternate disposal location, and we have discussed with our contractor the potential costs of moving the materials to secondary disposal locations. Below are brief updates on these issues."
Cramer explained, "Potential Contractor Costs. On August 29th, the Town issued a suspension of work to the contractor for the Lake Dredge Project. Around September 15th, the Town received preliminary information from the contractor as to their proposed cost related to suspension. Initially the contractor requested $3,500 per day for rental equipment. As specified in the SEPI letter dated October 20, 2017, the contract does not support the contractor's request for a change order to the contract. I understand the public's interest the potential cost associated to the suspension, but due to ongoing negotiations with the contractor, I am limited in what I can release in this regard. I can say that there are two areas of costs related to suspension; 1) Demobilization, which is specifically addressed in the contract, and 2) Rental equipment charges for equipment stored onsite."
He continued, "Our engineering firm, SEPI, has performed a cost analysis on the suspension of the contract and has estimated that the contractor may be entitled to a one-time payment for rental of the 14 barges for 21 days for a total of $15,600. There will also be some costs related to removing and shipping the barges back to the rental facility, but we do not anticipate those charges to be substantial. These charges are in lieu of the contractor's requested amount of $3,500/day ongoing, which has been the main topic of discussion. There are also costs to demobilize equipment of $25,130. However, mobilization and demobilization costs are part of the current project budget, so that would not represent an increase at this time. When the project restarts, there will be a charge for "remobilization", the cost of which is subject to negotiations with the contractor once we know the scope of the restarted project.The budget for this project includes a contingency of approximately $65,000 to cover unanticipated expenses, and is therefore available to cover the rental of the barges during the suspension, as well as, remobilization costs. Therefore, at this time, there would be no additional budget increase for this project related to suspension of the project. I'm sorry, but this is the best cost information I can provided at this time. As soon as we get to the point where know more about remobilization, I will share that information."
Cramer explained he met with officials on August 29th to discuss their concerns and, "At that meeting I was instructed to wait for an official letter of concerns before moving forward. I received the letter two weeks later, on September 15th, and responded with a "Letter of Reconsideration" on September 18th. During those two weeks, I had several conversations with MOTSU representatives, but was told all responses had to be in writing. On September 27th, I received the official response from the Real Estate Division of the Department of the Army. During those nine days, I again had multiple conversations with individual representatives of the Real Estate Division, during which, I was advised that the Colonel would be in California for several weeks."
He explained, "On October 13th, I was alerted that the Colonel was back in Town and I contacted him directly. We had a very frank, open, and honest conversation that helped clarify MOTSU's concerns. Due to his schedule, our first available time to meet is October 30th. At the meeting on October 30th, we will tour the site and discuss the issues regarding the Lake Dredging. Following that meeting, we will have a better understanding of what will be required of us so we can develop a strategy to proceed."
Cramer explained, "Potential Disposal Sites. Since August 29th, the Town has been actively talking and meeting with potential property owners who have the capacity to accept our spoils material. At the same time, the Town contracted with ECS to conduct particle size and chemical analysis on the dredge material. The report indicated that the material was not classified as Hazardous Waste and that applying the soil on the land would be appropriate. However, after further review of the data, chemical results suggest that the material is suitable for placement on a commercial parcel, but may not be suitable for placement in residential areas or for structural use. The main concern at this point is the presence of Arsenic in the soil, which is a naturally occurring compound. Further tests will need to be conducted to pinpoint the origins of the chemical and the extent of its presence. At this point the Town is not seeking residential locations for the dredge material. We will continue to focus on working with MOTSU or finding commercial/industrial sites for disposal of the material."
He explained, "We are currently researching property the Town owns on the north side of Snows Cut Bridge. The location was the site of an old landfill before being deeded to the Town in 1954. This property would be a good candidate for disposal of the material but it currently does not have a deeded property access. We have reached out to the U.S. Coast Guard to ask for a temporary access through their property to ours. This process may take some time to complete due to deployments after Hurricane Irma. In the meantime, we have hired another hydrogeologist to conduct additional testing to validate or dispute the test results to date and work toward overcoming these challenges. The results of the second round of testing is anticipated by the October 30th meeting with MOTSU. The project will remain in a status of suspended until additional progress can be made on these fronts."
On October 30th, Cramer explained, "On October 24th, I published an open letter discussing the potential costs, disposal sites and contacts I have had with MOTSU regarding the Lake Dredging Project. In that letter, I announced that we would be meeting with Colonel Marc Mueller at the Wastewater Treatment Plant on October 30th to discuss the issues with the project."
He explained, "Mayor Dan Wilcox and Councilman Gary Doetsch joined me at today’s meeting as we toured the Wastewater Treatment Plant, explaining how the Town utilizes this part of the Sunny Point property. The tone of our discussions was positive, genuinely constructive, and focused toward finding common solutions. The Colonel and his staff presented various concerns and we discussed several options to resolving our current situation, however no decisions were made. The Colonel and his staff will continue to review the issue and will contact us soon regarding a path forward. Overall, the meeting and tour of the facility was helpful in gaining a better understanding of our collective needs and the importance of the facility to both parties. Once we receive word from the Colonel, we will schedule a special council workshop to discuss the future of the Lake Dredging Project."