Beach Towns Seeking Assistance For Beach Restoration After Storm

Beach Towns Seeking Assistance For Beach Restoration After Storm

Beach Towns Seeking Assistance For Beach Restoration After Storm Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 10 October 2018 19:32

Managing Editor

PLEASURE ISLAND, N.C. - Hurricane Florence eroded the beach front in Carolina Beach and Kure Beach. A project was already scheduled in the spring of 2019 to pump sand onto the beach front.

Now Town officials are requesting the Army Corp of Engineers consider that erosion an emergency and that funding be secured to help mitigate the impacts of Florence.

Hurricane Florence brought strong surf conditions to New Hanover County beaches. In many areas dunes suffered heavy erosion leaving twelve to fifteen foot high escarpments or cliffs.

The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners approved a budget amendment  on Monday May 21st, to fund  beach renourishment projects in 2019 at Carolina Beach and Kure Beach. Every three years the two Towns receive an infusion of sand to help fight erosion.

According to Jim Iannucci, County Engineer, the US Army Corps of Engineers (ACES) has requested the non-federal cost share of $6,580,000 for the fiscal year 2019 Carolina Beach (CB) and Kure Beach (KB) Coastal Storm Damage Reduction (CSDR) maintenance events. This payment was originally anticipated for the fiscal year 2019 budget, however, the USACE has requested the funds be paid by June 4, 2018 to allow for early bidding to obtain more favorable pricing. The cost sharing of these projects is 65 percent federal and 35 percent non-Federal. Activities performed by the USACE include completing project design, awarding a construction contract, and administering the contract through completion for the upcoming nourishment cycle for Carolina Beach and Kure Beach.

The Federal cost-share for the Carolina Beach project will be $4.27 million with the State funding $2.30 million for a total cost of $6.57 million. The Federal cost-share for the Kure Beach project will be $7.95 million with the State funding $4.28 million for a total of $12.23 million.

The total for both projects is $18.8 million.

County staff requested the Board of Commissioners approve of the budget amendment to cover the non-federal portion of the projects. Room Occupancy Tax (ROT) revenues collected from hotels, motels and short term vacation rental accommodations will be used to fund the projects. The State portion of 50% of the non-federal cost share, or $3,290,000, has been requested from the North Carolina General Assembly as part of the fiscal year 2019 State Budget. That amount will be treated as revenue in the Room Occupancy Tax fund when it is received.

Even though the projects are scheduled for next fiscal year, the payment is due to the USACE in June 2018. The appropriation of $5,580,000 in ROT fund balance combined with $1,000,000 available in the fiscal year 2017-2018 budget will provide the cost sharing requirements specified in the Project Cooperation Agreements with the Army Corp of Engineers. Those agreements were originally established in 1994 for Carolina Beach and 1995 for Kure Beach.

The last beach renourishment project was in 2016 when the Army Corp of Engineers completed a project to pump sand on to the beach front in Carolina Beach and Kure Beach.

The cost for that joint Carolina Beach and Kure Beach project was $12,876,439.00. That price increased when additional sand was factored into the project. Following a pre-placement survey of the beach profile the project added another 120,000 cubic yards of sand in Carolina Beach in addition to the originally planned 770,000 cubic yards. Kure Beach received another 63,000 cubic yards in addition to the planned 592,000 cubic yards.

The project cost is shared with the Federal Government paying 65% and the State of North Carolina and local governments splitting the remaining 35%. A tax on hotel, motel, and vacation rental accommodations funds the local government portion of the project cost. Both Towns are on a three-year renourishment cycle with the next project scheduled for the Spring of 2019.

During the Board's May 21st, meeting Iannucci explained, "If we can do this budget amendment, it provides the opportunity to get the project bid sooner. That's two-fold benefits. One, we may be able to secure better pricing and the other is to ensure the projects are done within the environmental window. We are not trying to move these projects up or modify them. The projects will be done this winter under normal schedule."

All work for the project must be completed within the environmental window usually scheduled for early November  to the end of April.

That time frame is set to avoid interfering with Federally protected endangered sea turtles that begin nesting in the Spring. Currently there is in excess of $35 million dollars in the ROT fund for beach nourishment.

Commissioner Jonathan Barfield asked how long will the fund be sustainable.

County Chief Financial Officers Lisa Wurtzbacher explained, "If the model remains the way it is with the federal and state participation it is sustainable for quite a while. Obviously that changes if federal money goes away or state money goes away."

Barfield said, "It's always good to have folks come here and stay in hotels and pay that ROT and give us the resources to do that without coming out of our general fund."

Kure Beach Town Clerk Nancy Avery explained Tuesday October 9th that Mayor Craig Bloszinskyrecently met with Corps officials after Hurricane Florence and toured the beach.

On October 4th, Building Inspector John Batson sent a letter to Colonel Robert J. Clark with the Army Corp of Engineers - Wilmington District. The letter states, "At the request of the Wilmington District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Readiness and Contingency Operations Division and in an effort to report CSDR (Coastal Storm Damage Reduction) project losses resulting from Hurricane Florence, please accept this request for CSDR project rehabilitation assistance for the Kure Beach Coastal Storm Damage Reduction Project."

Batson explained, "This request is based on staff observation and estimated CSDR project volumetric losses from USACE caused by the elevated storm surge and high surf actions across the CSDR project template. These CSDR project losses occurred primarily between the period of September 13, 2018 and September 17, 2018. The Army Corps Project Management and Engineering teams at the District have access to all locally available data and photographs. On September 20, 2018, the Corps collected onsite post-storm CSDR project elevation data."

Batson explained, "Post-Florence CSDR project maintenance and management is essential to continue protecting our coastal infrastructure, small businesses, tourism and citizens during the remainder of the hurricane season, as well as during the winter months when the "Nor' easter" type storms impact the project."

Jim Medlock - Project Manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wilmington District informed Carolina Beach and Kure Beach on October 3rd, "We appreciate your participation in our recent on-site post Hurricane Florence storm damage assessments. This email continues the process for the Corps of Engineers to develop a project information report (PIR) that could be the basis for requesting Federal emergency funding to rehabilitate your project as impacted by Hurricane Florence."

Medlock explained, "If you as the non-federal sponsor of a Federal coastal storm risk management project believe that your project qualifies for the rehabilitation assistance, please send me a written request in accordance with the enclosed letter by the 13th of October. The request must be signed by you or other responsible official and must include the name and telephone number of point of contact."

Carolina officials are preparing a letter to send to the Corps of Engineers requesting assistance.


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