County officials to hear options for beach nourishment funding

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A federally aided widening of the Carolina Beach strand played out in spring 2013 with sand dredged from Carolina Beach Inlet. File photo by Ben Brown.
A federally aided widening of the Carolina Beach strand played out in spring 2013 with sand dredged from Carolina Beach Inlet. File photo by Ben Brown.

The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners will be examining options for the sharing of costs for coastal storm damage reduction (CSDR) projects, also known as beach nourishment, at their meeting on Monday.

Currently there is an interlocal agreement, approved in December 2011, between the county and its beach towns of Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach and Kure Beach that provides funding for the projects in the absence of federal and state funding. Through that deal, room occupancy taxes (ROT) from the county pays up to 82.5 percent of the cost of CSDR projects, with the town having the work done responsible for paying the remaining 17.5 percent.

Earlier this year, officials from Carolina Beach and Kure Beach, both located on Pleasure Island south of the city of Wilmington, met with the Port, Waterway and Beach Commission (PWBC) to discuss restructuring the 17.5 percent local cost share. After that meeting, the PWBC brought the issue forward to the board of commissioners, who created a subcommittee in June to come up with a list of potential short- and long-term alternatives for the local share.

There are three main short-term options, with some dollar estimates based on the cost of $8 million per project, that will be presented to the board. Option A is for the ROT to completely fund one CSDR maintenance event per beach community. According to the subcommittee’s estimates, that would cost $24 million in ROT through July 1, 2020.

Option B is for the local cost share of 17.5 percent to be split evenly between New Hanover County and the recipient beach per event. Using the subcommittee’s estimates, the total local share per project would be $1.4 million, costing the receiving town and the county $700,000 each.

The third alternative, Option C, is for the local cost share to be distributed based on either ad valorem or per capita percentages for each beach town and the county. If ad valorem taxes are used, New Hanover County would pay 11.5 percent of the local cost share for Carolina Beach, 14.5 percent for Kure Beach and 9.5 percent for Wrightsville Beach. Based on per capita, the county would pay 14.5 percent for Carolina Beach and 16.5 each for both Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach.

Other short-term options discussed include using the ROT as a loan source for the 17.5 percent and keeping the status quo. Some long-term options include getting a dedicated funding source from the state and reformulating the structure of the ROT.

The presentation will be made by Layton Bedsolde, the county’s shore protection coordinator. The board of commissioners next meet Monday, Nov. 16, at 9 a.m. in the Assembly Room in the New Hanover County Historic Courthouse on 3rd St. in downtown Wilmington.