By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
CAROLINA BEACH - Carolina Beach Town Manager Michael Cramer updated Council during their January 9th, meeting on the status of completing a project to dredge the Carolina Beach Lake on Lake Park Blvd.
The Town Council voted unanimously to terminate a contract with Civil Works Contracting to dredge the Carolina Beach Lake during their December 12th, meeting. The Town continues to search for alternate locations to dispose of soil dredged from the Carolina Beach Lake on Lake Park Blvd. Dredging 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.
On November 28th, Town Manager Michael Cramer recommended the Council consider terminating the contract until a future time when work can resume under a new contract.
In October the Town was notified that owners of one alternate location changed their minds about taking on the material following soil tests which showed higher levels of arsenic.
That land is located north of Snow's Cut Bridge in the undeveloped portion of a new residential neighborhood.
Cramer explained on Monday November 20th, the Town has contacted the U.S. Coast Guard about obtaining access to property on River Road just north of Carolina Beach in order to access property the Town owns behind the Coast Guard land. 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.
Cramer said he was still awaiting a decision from MOTSU on how the Town should deal with the material already placed on the property.
Cramer said the Town had a third round of soil testing conducted in the lake area and the material already deposited on the Army land.
He explained, “We expanded our search in order to go and try and get a finer degree of information that we could look at and give to regulators on what we could do with the spoils. Basically what came back was that the baseline for the area outside of the lake and MOTSU contains no arsenic. The water in the lake itself contains no arsenic. The ground water under and around the lake and MOSTU contains no arsenic. The soil that we took out of the lake and put onto the MOTSU property contains no arsenic. All good news. What we found is that we didn’t confirm that there is arsenic left in the material that is in the lake. Not exactly the pin point precision of exactly where the line of demarcation is, but we do know that out of six samples that were taken, three of them had hits of arsenic. Two of them above the commercial and industrial level. The next step in this process is to go and test and find exactly where that is and determine how much material that may provide and then determine can we do other dredging in that area but not disturb that soil, or, if we do take out that soil, where can we put it."
Previous tests showed higher levels of arsenic and 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.
Cramer said he’s been speaking with various state agencies, “All to try and determine exactly what or what cannot be done with the material and where it could or could not go. At this point our permit says that we can place it anywhere but that does not necessarily mean that you have all the permits that you have to for a specific site to contain that. So that is sort of our next step in this gathering of information so that Council can make a good solid decision on where to go from this point forward."
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.
When the project was suspended August 29th, the contractor had removed approximately 30,000 cubic yards of material to the wastewater treatment plant.
Guidelines sent to the Town by MOTSU officials calls for removal of the material already placed on their property within three to five years. The cost of moving that material is unknown due to a lack of a alternate disposal location. Distance of travel plays a major role in terms of cost to transport the dirt.
Cramer explained, "On August 29, 2017 the Town suspended the Lake Dredging Contract with Civil Works Construction LLC due to issues with spoils placement at the Wastewater Treatment Plant. Since that time the town has performed additional soil studies on the material at the Wastewater Treatment Plant and the remaining soil in the lake. In order to move forward with the project more time up to 6 months of additional time will be necessary to complete the additional permits applications and finalize another disposal location for the spoils. It is not fair nor appropriate that the town to continue the current contract with CWC, while working through the permitting requirements. The Town Manager recommends that the current contract be terminated and preparations for a future phase of the Lake Dredge Project move forward."
During the Council's December 12th, meeting Cramer explained, "At this point it would be unfair to the contractor to hold out a contract term for an additional six months and it would be unfair to the citizens of Carolina Beach to have construction or the lake area deconstructed for an additional six months as we wait until we get all of our paper work in order. It's because of those reasons that I've recommended termination" of the contract.
During the Council's January 9th, meeting Cramer explained, "Currently as all of you know, the contract has been terminated. We have been working with the contractor to establish what things need to be addressed on the property at the lake. What equipment needs to be removed and what items need to be returned back to their original condition. We are hopeful that will start up here pretty soon and that it shouldn't take long for us to clean up the site and finish off that portion of the project."
He explained, "As we've been doing that we've also been looking for other ways to go and finish off the lake dredge project. We've been exploring numerous opportunities for places to put the spoils and also regulatory approval for that type of a project. Right now we've contacted all of the regulatory agencies and believe we are on our way to getting approval to be able place the material on a piece of town property just behind the [Coast Guard] Loran Station" off River Road north of Snow's Cut Bridge.
He explained, "That's moving along. The last hurdle associated with that is working with the Coast Guard to receive an easement so we can get back to our property. We're anticipating that will still take several months to work through that process. During that time you will see boats and activity in the water at the lake. We will be doing additional testing so that we can define the exact location of the containments that we have in the lake and determine how much material can be removed and how much may have to stay or what we should do with those remaining spoils."
Councilman JoDan Garza questioned whether or not Cramer had an idea what it will cost to access the Town property behind the Coast Guard land.
Cramer explained, "Not yet, no. We are currently trying to make sure that we are able to get back there before we start spending the engineering costs that it would take to determine how much the road will cost."
Council member Leann Pierce asked, "Do you have any idea when you'll get an answer on that?"
Cramer explained, "No I really don't. Right now we are waiting for one state organization to get back with us and tell us whether or not there is an issue on the site for tribal aspects. We don't believe there is. Once that gets in then we will send in the appropriate documentation and information to the Coast Guard and ask them for the easement. Most likely, in my conversations with the Coast Guard, it won't take too long before they are able to say that they would agree to doing an easement. I'm expecting it easily will take another couple of months to get through that process."
Pierce said, "Access to that property is something we need anyway whether we use it for that purpose or not."
Mayor Joe Benson explained, "Concurrent to that, I know you had tacit approval, not a specific date when they would accept it, but for another 10,000 cubic yards from MOTSU. You, myself and Leann, we are going to meet Colonel Mueller on Thursday, so we hope those discussions go in a positive way and maybe we can accelerate a reply back from the Army. That would be good."
Garza asked, "If it's something we know we are possibly going to use long term back there, is it advantageous for us to maybe go ahead and look into what it would cost for that road?"
Cramer explained, "We had general estimates, staff estimates, that we've taken just from the length of property that we would have to cross and how much stone we would need. The things that are complicating that is what other types of things the Coast Guard may require of us. If we have to put up fencing. Things like that are unknowns. At this point I'm kind of expecting that if we are able to just go across and we would do the timbering ourselves and put in a road, it's probably anywhere in the $50,000 to $75,000 range to go and establish that. On top of that you have things like fencing and other things they may require."