Monday, December 4, 2023

Army Corps to award Surf City, North Topsail Beach $237 million for storm mitigation

Sand-hauling work was scheduled to begin Monday, but is delayed until beach engineers assess the damages from the storm. Here, a sand pile recently dumped just south of the Surf City Pier. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
A beach escarpment near a home in northern Surf City after a Northeaster hit Topsail Island in November. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)

SURF CITY — Two Topsail Island towns of Surf City and North Topsail Beach were awarded nearly a quarter-billion dollars for storm damage reduction projects in the wake of Hurricanes Matthew and Florence.

U.S. Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis announced on Monday the U.S. Army Corps will award $237 million to the Topsail Island towns and $44.5 million for Bogues Banks in Carteret County.

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Last week it was announced that the Army Corps had allocated $39.6 million for a flood mitigation project in Princeville, 18 miles north of Greenville. These projects total $321 million.

According to a release from Burr’s office, the two senators led efforts to secure the federal funding and, along with Congressman David Rouzer, sent a letter to the Corps advocating for Surf City and North Topsail Beach.

“The Surf City and North Topsail Beach project is a critical, shovel-ready coastal storm reduction project, and constructing it is a priority for North Carolina, a state seriously impacted by Hurricane Florence,” the joint letter stated.

The letter goes on to say that the Topsail Island project is designed to prevent disastrous losses by protecting vulnerable areas of the island “that lost storm protection capabilities in previous storms and through ongoing erosion.” Hurricanes Fran, Bertha, and Floyd eroded approximately 25 feet of protective beach width over the project area, according to the two senators and the congressman.

“Today, shoreline erosion continues at a rate of two to three feet per year in some portions of the project area,” the letter continues. “Hurricane Florence further eroded the beaches and primary dune structure. The Corps estimates average damages exceed $19 million for every year the project is not constructed.”

Hurricane Florence caused over $100 million in damages to the towns’ beaches and infrastructure, according to the letter, and if it had made landfall at earlier predicted levels of a Category 3 or 4 storm, “the damage would have been catastrophic.”

“The towns of Surf City and North Topsail Beach are aware of the risks they face and have sought to improve beach conditions on their own,” according to the letter.

The towns have committed to fulfilling non-federal cost-sharing obligations and have worked with the Corp’s Wilmington District to complete preconstruction engineering and design and secure necessary permits, according to the letter.

“They are ready to move forward with a Project Partnership Agreement and begin construction as soon as possible,” the letter states.

The funds come from Congress through the Disaster Relief Act. The letter concludes by justifying the economic soundness of the Topsail Island projects, claiming a benefit-cost ratio of 3.47 to 1. The letter did not elaborate on the details of this claim.

Governor Cooper also praised the project’s funding in a Monday evening release.

“These substantial investments by the Army Corps of Engineers will help make North Carolina safer and more resilient against future storms. North Carolinians have been hit hard by recent storms, and I appreciate the efforts of our federal partners as we work to rebuild smarter and stronger than ever,” Cooper said.

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