Photo: U.S. Army Corp of Engineers: The Dredge Merritt. The Corp of Engineers has been dredging the Carolina Beach Inlet for the last two weeks to maintain the shallow draft inlet.
By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
CAROLINA BEACH - The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers began dredging the Carolina Beach Inlet earlier this month using the side-cast Dredge Merritt.
The project is made possible by federal funding to be used to return Carolina Beach Inlet and other shallow draft inlets to pre hurricane Irene condition.
Many North Carolina shallow draft inlets had become nearly impassable causing safety concerns and concerns for negative impacts on local economies.
Every year elected leaders have to lobby in Washington to restore federal funding for coastal projects in North Carolina. In Carolina Beach it's an ongoing process to lobby for federal and state funding for dredging of the Carolina Beach Inlet and funding beach nourishment. In February the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers announced it received "about $27.6 million in emergency operations and maintenance funds to restore multiple coastal projects in North Carolina to pre-Hurricane Irene conditions" according to a press release issued February 9.
The fiscal year 2012 (FY12) emergency supplemental funds allocated to the Wilmington District will be used for activities including jetty repairs at Masonboro Inlet, and maintenance dredging at Manteo (Shallowbag) Bay,
Wilmington Harbor, Morehead City Harbor and at shallow draft inlets and channels, all of which sustained considerable damage from shoaling after Hurricane Irene.
"These communities were hit with millions of dollars in damage from the August 2011 storm and this is our opportunity to provide much needed federal support to restore these areas to their pre-storm conditions," said Army Col. Steven Baker, Wilmington District commander. “Completion of restoration efforts will significantly improve coastal navigation safety, and assist the United States Coast Guard in their search and rescue missions." In addition to funding for many other projects including maintenance dredging for shallow draft inlets, Carolina Beach Inlet received $500,000.
The Wilmington District also got an additional $32.8 million in fiscal year 2012 Civil Works Appropriations for ongoing projects. These funds will be used on multiple Wilmington District projects vital to the nation’s commercial navigation along the Eastern seaboard including the Wilmington Harbor project and coastal storm damage reduction such as the Carolina Beach project.
“Today’s announcement by the Corps is outstanding news for our community and our District,” said Army Col. Steven A. Baker, Wilmington District commander. “It means we can continue to perform work on critical missions that we would not have been able to do in fiscal year 2012.”
Of note, the Corps’ navigation program is vital to the nation’s economic prosperity, and provides safe, reliable, efficient and environmentally sustainable waterborne transportation systems for moving commercial goods and for national security.
Funding highlights include $500,000 for the Wilmington Harbor Improvement Study that will allow us to perform multiple analyses on the feasibility phase; $4.4 million for the Carolina Beach and Vicinity project to initiate coastal storm damage reduction nourishment activities; and $22.3 million for the Wilmington Harbor 96 Act project to continue deepening the navigation channel from the North Carolina State Ports facility to the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge. Federal funding on these three projects would be combined with sponsor funds to perform these activities.
Additionally, $5 million in operations and maintenance funds have been allocated to augment maintenance dredging activities at five projects.
For the Carolina Beach Inlet, local leaders welcome the news of recent funding but point towards the absence of any funding included in President Obama's 2013
federal budget. A common problem year after year. Funding to dredge the Carolina Beach Inlet has always been hard to get, but now that "earmarks" are on the chopping block in Washington D.C., that federal funding has vanished.
The cost estimated by the Army Corp of Engineers is $450,000 to dredge and maintain Carolina Beach inlet for safe navigation. The State of North Carolina offered to pay $225,000 last summer if local governments in New Hanover County agreed to match that amount. In August 2011 New Hanover County, the City of Wilmington and the three beach Towns all agreed to chip in to match the state funding.
In addition to efforts on the part of U.S. Congressman Mike McIntyre and U.S. Senator Kay Haygan to lobby for funding such projects, one local group of commercial fishermen called the Carolina Beach Inlet Association, assumes there will be no federal funding and is exploring avenues with state legislators regarding revenue sources such as a fuel tax for boaters, an additional room occupancy tax and other options to protect the Carolina Beach Inlet and other shallow draft inlets in North Carolina as vital economic engines.
For example, without the access to the ocean provided by the Carolina Beach Inlet, the impact on the local tourism economy would have a substantial negative economic impact on all tourism based businesses such as hotels and restaurants.
During Carolina Beach Town Council meeting on March 13, Mayor Ray Rothrock explained last year the State said they would provide $225,000 if the local governments in New Hanover County came up with an additional $225,000. The three beach towns, City of Wilmington and the County Board of Commissioners helped reach that amount to get the state matching funds for maintenance in the Carolina Beach Inlet.
Rothrock explained, "In early February the federal government came up with some damages money for hurricane Irene and they allocated $500,000... for Carolina Beach Inlet. That will get us two dredges at least. One of them should
start next week, the other scheduled tentatively for August depending on what Mother Nature does to us. That will use up the $500,000 the federal government has."
Rothrock explained, "The presidents budget that came out the 13th of February, there's no money for Carolina Beach Inlet or the other inlets in the State of North Carolina. In addition to that, there's no money for beach renourishment for anywhere. We the Town have been asked by the Ports, Waterway and Beach Commission - that sort of spearheaded this to get everyone to
work on the same page after the Carolina Beach Inlet Association went to them - said save that money you allocated for this year and move
it into next year's budget. So what Carolina Beach is working toward is to move that $30,000 we allocated in this fiscal year budget into our budget starting July 1.
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