The Army Corps of Engineers have consistently helped fund and construct beach renourishment projects in Carolina Beach for the last 50 years—the longest of any beach town in the country. Wrightsville Beach and Kure Beach both have contracts with the Corps, scheduled to time out in 2041 and 2047, respectively.
However, it looks as though the Corps may miss out on the next projects in Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach, which could cost New Hanover County about $12 million.
The projects to restore sand to the area’s beaches are known officially as Coastal Storm Damage Reduction (CSDR) projects. The beach-widening, dune-building projects are meant to protect houses, businesses, infrastructure and lives from the storm surge that hurricanes and tropical formations can bring.
According to Layton Bedsole, shore protection coordinator for New Hanover County, with new process guidelines for CSDR projects coming down the pike from the Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C., local officials are concerned upcoming projects for Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach will fall on the laps of the county and towns themselves.
“It’s not a funding issue, but a process issue for the Corps because of new elements that need to be completed and need to be run up and down the approval chain before they can participate in a budgeting project next March,” said Bedsole. “We saw a list of deliverables they needed to provide by March in order to participate in projects during fiscal years 2018 for Wrightsville Beach and fiscal year 2019 for Carolina Beach, and we just don’t believe they’ll be ready in time.”
According to Bedsole, these changes within the Corps came in 2013, the last year Carolina Beach and Kure Beach saw CSDR projects.
In order to be prepared for the absence of Corps funding for the sand work, Bedsole spoke to New Hanover County commissioners and asked for the approval of an extended contract worth just under $700,000 with a private engineering company Moffatt and Nichol for the company’s Risk Management Plan to go beyond the initial reach of Carolina Beach and include Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach.
The RMR was initially part of an effort by the county and the Town of Carolina Beach to extend the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), a three-year federal contract providing funding to the Corps to continue beach renourishment projects in Carolina Beach. Officials hoped to renew the WRRDA contract for another 15 years, and in order to achieve this, mandated the Town of Carolina Beach produce a study—independent of the Army Corps—proving the economic and engineering aspects of the Carolina Beach beach renourishment project is in line with federal efforts and capabilities.
The RMR provides the exact costs and procedures for revitalizing the beach, and could end up becoming the guidelines the county and beach towns follow to replenish sand themselves, without federal funding or involvement.
“I would not want to stand here in a year and half from now and say ‘oops’, [the expanded RMR] is an insurance policy if you will,” said Bedsole.
“I hope we don’t have to build Wrightsville Beach in fiscal year 2018; the schedules we were provided by the Corps in August make me question that…if I was a betting man, I would say there is a 90 percent chance we’re also going to be building Carolina Beach in fiscal year 2019,” Bedsole said.
Numerous coastal towns have arrangements with the federal government to fund beach nourishment, in which the Corps provides up to 65 percent of a single project’s cost. For example, it took $12.5 million in federal funds to renourish the Carolina and Kure strands in 2013, while local and state dollars covered the remaining 35 percent.
Local and state dollars split the 35 percent down the middle, so the county and beach towns, according to Bedsole, will be on the hook for 82.5 percent of the projects. It’s estimated each project will run about $6 million.
According to county commissioners, the majority of these funds would come from Room and Occupancy Taxes collected over the previous fiscal year. Based on statistics released by the New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority, the county received about $10 million in ROT revenue in 2014.
While this would be a significant portion of revenue taken away from the county, Bedsole does not expect the Corps to be absent from these projects in the long run.
The CSDR projects cycle on patterns, with Wrightsville conducting a project every four years and Kure Beach and Carolina Beach conducting every three years. According to Bedsole, the Corps should be back online with projects after these two.
- Carolina Beach rolls federal sand money forward
- Carolina Beach to explore beach renourishment savings
James Mieczkowski is a news reporter for Port City Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @mieczkowskiPCD