- Published on Wednesday, 19 February 2014 12:58
- Written by Super User
By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
NEW HANOVER CTY - The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners approved allocating $75,000 to help fund a process to secure local permits to dredge the Carolina Beach Inlet in the future should federal resources become unavailable.
According to County Engineer Jim Iannucci, County staff proposes initiating the process to secure federal and state authorizations for maintaining Carolina Beach Inlet (CBI).
The inlet is located north of Carolina Beach between Pleasure Island and Masonboro Island. Over the years federal funding for dredging the inlet to maintain a safe depth for vessels has been cut from the federal budget. Without funding the inlet would fill with sand and no longer be navigable for commercial vessels and recreational boaters creating negative economic impacts.
According to Iannucci, the project would have the exact attributes (template and disposal options) as implemented by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The project area encompasses the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AIWW) crossing east through the inlet throat into ocean waters. The proposed authorization will exactly overlay the USACE's footprint where they traditionally dredge in the inlet.
He explained to the Board of Commissioners on Monday the permitting approach for the inlet is a coordinated effort through the Division of Water Resources (NCDWR) and five participating shallow draft stakeholders (Shallotte, Lockwood Folly, Carolina Beach, Topsail and Bogue inlets). The previous NCDWR Reconnaissance Phase resulted in an estimated permitting cost for all five participants as $300,000.00. The NCDWR is sharing 50% the cost of the Permitting Phase leaving the participating stakeholders to cost-share the remaining $150,000.00.
Iannucci anticipates New Hanover County's worst case funding participation based on an estimate of $75,000.00. Inclusion of CBI maintenance dredging within a locally held authorization will provide the County with potential contracting alternatives for future maintenance dredging efforts. Having this locally issued permit will not adversely affect future cost sharing potentials with the NCDWR.
Iannucci said the Port, Waterway and Beach Commission supports this permitting capability. Room occupancy tax funds are eligible for the proposed effort as defined by the General Assembly in 2002 "Costs directly associated with qualifying for projects either contracted through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or otherwise permitted by all appropriate federal and state agencies."
Those Room Occupancy Tax Funds are collected through a 6% tax on all hotel, motel and vacation rental accommodations in the County.
Iannucci said County staff is requesting authorization to participate in the NCDWR's Permitting Phase of the shallow draft inlets. This approach retains New Hanover County's coastal infrastructure continuity, project momentum, uses previous deliverables and maximizes use of available data while facilitating current regulatory guidance.
Iannucci explained, "We currently have an agreement. It has not been dredged by the feds lately. We've been splitting that cost with the state and our local beach communities. What we are brining forward today is the initial authorization to gain authorization to do that project ourselves. If the Corp of Engineers no longer had the Merritt, the dredge that currently does that project, we would have a procedure in place that we could do that project. This is not including any construction but it would be to gain authorization to do the project in the same way the Corp of Engineers currently does it."
He said, "Worst case scenario would be if there were only two stakeholders to participate. That would be a split of the $150,000. If all five were to participate it would be a lesser amount. This would be to gain those authorizations and then work towards having a longer term commitment on being able to dredge these shallow draft inlets."
He said other local governments such as Holden Beach are working on authorization to participate.
Previously the County approved $160,000 from Economic Development Funds to help dredge the inlet by contracting with the Army Corp of Engineers. This would be a different approach using local permits rather than relying upon the Corp of Engineers.
Barfield said, "I know that that inlet is probably one of the most dangerous inlets in this area. In 1998 or 1999 I purchased a boat and that was the first inlet that I went out with my daughter who was seven or eight at the time I believe and we almost lost our lives in that inlet. Did not realize the shoaling that was indeed there and how narrow it really was trying to get out there. Made it back in. I think I was shaking beyond measure. I was thankful to be back. And when you go up to the Masonboro Inlet it is just a different inlet."
The Board voted unanimously to approve of the request and amend the budget to provide the $75,000 funding.
According to Robert Schoonmaker of the Carolina Beach Inlet Association, in 2006, the Federal Office of Management and Budget cut funding of shallow draft inlet dredging in North Carolina. From 2006 to 2011, North Carolina’s shallow draft inlet dredging was funded through federal earmarks. Federal earmark funding has been stopped. He explained Tuesday December 10, there is no federal funding for Shallow Draft Inlet Dredging in the 2013 federal budget.
The State of North Carolina, along with coastal municipalities and counties, have come up with Emergency Dredging Funds for 2013. After 2013 there was no funding available from the Federal or State Governments. He explained it's not just the Carolina Beach Inlet, but inlets along the entire coast of North Carolina including Lockwood Folly (Brunswick County), New Topsail (Pender County), Bogue (Carteret County), New River (Pender and Onslow County), and the deep Oregon Inlet (Dare County).
He explained the mission is to "Secure a sustainable funding avenue at the state and local level so the USACE can maintain the shallow draft inlets."
At this moment Carolina Beach Inlet is only receiving $450,000 in Emergency Dredging funds, Less than half its original budget.