Monday, June 17, 2024

Congress hears about local beach nourishment woes, Cooper adds his support

The beach nourishment project is making its way to Kure Beach (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)
A previous beach nourishment project taking place on Pleasure Island in 2019. (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)

Talks about the lacking funds for local area beach nourishment projects, or Coastal Storm Damage Reduction, played out in Congress last month. Days after, Gov. Roy Cooper stationed himself among a group of state and national politicians working toward a solution. 

There has been a scramble for replacement money in the months since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers excluded mentions of Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach and Kure Beach in the organization’s 2021 federal work plan. The three beach towns were scheduled for nourishment events beginning later this year, and without funding from the Corps, the projects — designed to protect the shores against hurricanes and other forces — would be postponed. 

Previously: Funding for Wilmington-area beach nourishment disappears at last minute; local leaders shocked

N.C. Congressman David Rouzer, the ranking Republican on the Subcommittee for Water Resources and Environment, probed Lt. General Scott Spellmon of the Army Corps during a hearing on President Joe Biden’s budget proposal — which also did not include funding for the three beach nourishment projects. 

Rouzer told Spellmon the lack of funding for these three projects in his district “came as a great surprise to everybody up and down the chain, at least those that I’ve spoken to.” 

[Watch video of the exchange here]

Amid the fallout, the Wilmington District office of the Army Corps generated a plan to move unused funding from elsewhere into the New Hanover-area budgets. Such a plan requires the blessing of the Corps’ upper levels. 

“And I understand that the Wilmington district and some others have put together a plan to utilize funds that were left over from a couple other projects in North Carolina and convert those for these two projects,” Rouzer said at the hearing. 

“I understand it’s on your doorstep, if not already seen, and I want to make sure that you are aware of that and get any input from you here while I have you,” he continued.

Spellmon offered no guarantees in response. He told Rouzer the beach nourishment price tag for Wrightsville Beach was $14.3 million, and Pleasure Island’s cost would be $24 million.

“First, we’re working on an internal reprogramming action where we’ll find funds from other projects within the Corps that either are no longer needed or came in under budget,” Spellmon said. 

Spellmon added that the “internal re-programming route” would require bureaucratic approvals, and consideration from the Office of Management and Budget and the Biden administration, as well as Army Corps brass. 

Read More: Rep. David Rouzer weighs in on unresolved beach nourishment funding debacle

Four days after the Congressional hearing Gov. Cooper sent a letter on June 28 to two senior Army Corps officials and the acting director of the OMB. 

“I am writing to urge your favorable consideration of all options to secure reinstatement of federal share funding for the Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, and Wrightsville Beach periodic renourishment projects in New Hanover County, North Carolina,” Cooper wrote. 

“Each of these communities rely upon predictable funding schedules in the Corps of Engineers Work Plan. I know that this is an item that is already under consideration for possible solutions, and I ask that you take all necessary steps to restore Work Plan funding to allow all three of these projects to move forward in the upcoming 2021-2022 cycle.”

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