By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
CAROLINA BEACH - New Hanover County Commissioner Rick Catlin spoke to the Carolina Beach Town Council Tuesday November 15, about an Interlocal Agreement with the County to continue to pursue permitting for beach nourishment projects in the County.
According to Town Manager Tim Owens, the Town's Federal 50 year beach nourishment project is set to expire following the last nourishment cycle likely to occur in 2013.
Owens said there are common interest to all beach communities in the county.
He said one important issue is securing contributing authority for beach projects so that projects can be built more efficiently and effectively.
Earlier this year a primary issue was the lack of ability for the state and local governments to contribute additional funding for Army Corp of Engineers beach nourishment projects when federal funding was insufficient to complete an entire project.
Owens explained, "This is important in the short term given that Federal participation may be extremely limited or non-existent. It is also important given that a large portion of the cost is in mobilization and that smaller funded projects can be ineffective and an inefficient use of funds."
Owens explained that securing local permits so that if the federal participation is not possible, that local beach communities can complete a project using local funds. He said that's particularly important given that the Town's project is nearing the 50-year life cycle with significant challenges lying ahead for federal re-authorization. Catlin said he understands the value the beach communities provide for the County.
He said the interlocal agreement is one step; the other is a permitting contingency plan.
He said, "Those will allow us in this new landscape that we have where the administration in Washington does not put beach renourishment in their budget and congress cannot add it because of the earmark prohibition. Unless there's a hurricane and we get emergency supplemental funding, we're not going to get federal funding."
Catlin said the contingency plan will allow the County to attain a permit similar to the Army Corp of Engineers permit, "To be able to do what they do" and, "That would be under a contract with a consultant."
Catlin said, "To help that process along, it's useful for the State of North Carolina, who will be reviewing that permit process, to know that we have an interlocal agreement in place to describe how we are going to fund this and do this."
The Town of Carolina Beach's 50-year project cooperation agreement with the Federal government expires in 2014. Under that agreement, the Federal government pays 65% of beach nourishment projects every few years. The state and local governments fund the remaining 35% with state funding and local room occupancy tax revenues.
If the Town's program is not reauthorized, there must be a contingency plan in place prior to that to ensure such projects continue.
While contributing authority is an issue, the contingency plan would permit the Town of Carolina Beach to fund
it's own permits with the support of the county if federal and state funding was short or non-existent.
For Carolina Beach, Catlin explained in April of this year, "In your worst case scenario that would be $350,000 dollars per year during those years that you don't have that funding. In all reality I don't think we would let you wash away if for some reason you couldn't come up with it."
Catlin said the worst cast scenario is the State doesn't pay their portion and the local communities would have to pay a maximum of 17.5%.
Catlin said the agreement would run through 2015, and after one cycle going through the process, it could be reviewed again by all parties.
The County Room Occupancy Tax Fund dedicated to beach nourishment funding currently has $35 million in the bank.
The Council voted unanimously to approve of the interlocal agreement and to give Town Manager Tim Owens authority to send letters to officials in Washington regarding federal re-authorization of the Town's beach nourishment project.
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