As the end of the environmental window closes for the coastal storm damage reduction projects, also known as beach nourishment, crews have worked hard to finish placing sand on the shores of Carolina Beach and Kure Beach.
According to the town of Carolina Beach, the project in their town, which stretched south from the fishing pier to near the boardwalk and central business district, ended earlier this month. Freeman Park, which was used as a staging area for pipes and other heavy equipment, was closed in some areas for the duration of the project. It is expected to reopen completely to the public on May 1 after all the equipment has been moved off the beach.
Bob Keistler, the Wilmington project manager for the United States Army Corps of Engineers, said though the Carolina Beach portion of the work started later, they were able to finish sooner due to the location from which they pumped the sand.
“They were dredging from the inlet, which is calmer and not susceptible to big ocean waves,” Keistler said, adding crews were able to put 890,000 cubic yards of sand on the beach in less than a month. “For the Kure Beach project, they’re dredging from the ocean, and if the waves swell too high, they can’t work. Even if it’s a nice sunny day [on shore], the offshore winds might be too high for crews to work. Any rolling waves make the dredge rock back and forth.”
The Kure Beach project was divided into two parts for a total of 655,000 cubic yards of sand. The northern part, which started at the town’s border with Carolina Beach and went a few blocks south, was started in January and has been finished for a while. The southern part is nearly complete, according to Keistler, but they are in the process of asking for an extension to work past the April 30 deadline.
Crews are not allowed to work on sand projects past that date due to the turtle nesting season, which starts on May 1. In order to do so, they have to get permission, and an environment or turtle expert will have to walk the beach regularly in the work area to make sure no turtle nests are in the area that might be affected.
“We’re doing all the things we can to minimize the impact to the turtles,” said Keistler. “We’re pro-turtle, we care about them.”
The CSDR project, which originally was set to start last fall, was pushed back due to other delays the contractor, Marinex Corporation out of Charleston, S.C., had on a previous project. Work finally started in Kure Beach in January, but there were worries that neither project in the Pleasure Island towns would finish on time.
In an effort to finish as quickly as possible in the wake of so many bad weather days, which Keistler said numbered “way more than expected,” Marinex subcontracted with Norfolk Dredging, a Virginia company, to bring in a second dredger to complete the Carolina Beach project.
“We really appreciate the work the contractor, Marinex, has done to complete the work,” said Keistler. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they finished Kure Beach by the end of the month.”
Though Keistler is confident they crews will finish putting sand on the shore soon, he said it’s better to have the extension in place in case it’s needed. According to Keistler, the rules state all equipment has to be packed up and gone before May 1, and it takes approximately two weeks to get the heavy pipes off the beach.
This is the last cycle (Pleasure Island beaches get sand every three years) for which Carolina Beach will receive federal funding. Officials from the beach towns and New Hanover County as well as other community groups are working with state and federal legislators to secure more funding for future projects.