Saturday, October 1, 2022

NHC beach towns receive $1.1M in grants for water, sewer investments

(Port City Daily/File)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — A record amount of state funding was divvied up between 86 counties for water and wastewater infrastructure projects late last month.

Of the $789.4 million doled out, New Hanover County received $1.1 million for projects in its three beach towns.

Cape Fear Public Utility Authority and Wrightsville Beach received $400,000. CFPUA applied for a feasibility project grant in April to cover costs of a merger study with Wrightsville Beach.

Following issues with the beach town’s water supply and capacity beginning in 2019, the town discontinued use of well No. 11. CFPUA gave Wrightsville Beach a three-year discounted deal to replace approximately 20% of town water sourced from the closed down source.

READ MORE: Wrightsville Beach and CFPUA arrive at deal to bolster town’s water supply

Part of that agreement included the consideration of the two entities joining forces.

“The opportunity for a merger of the Town’s water and sewer utility with CFPUA has been discussed off and on for a number of years,” Town Manager Tim Owens said.

The collaboration would ultimately put CFPUA in charge of Wrightsville Beach’s water operations, which it currently receives from wells. It would take a few years for the process to be complete.

The awarded grant money will examine all aspects from financials and debt service to infrastructure and capital improvement needs.

On the southern end of the county on Pleasure Island, Carolina Beach was also awarded $400,000 for its water and sewer resiliency assessment project.

The town plans to use the funds toward expenses for the wastewater treatment plant’s new headworks, to reduce pollutants to a level allowable for discharge into a waterway. The money also would bankroll an engineering study for water system upgrades. According to the town’s budget, both projects are crucial to the long-term health of the town’s water and sewer infrastructure.

Also located on Pleasure Island, Kure Beach was awarded $300,000.

As noted during a February council meeting, Kure needs to replace and upgrade its lift station control panels, rehab sewer mains and manholes, remove sludge from the wastewater lagoon for cleaner wastewater processing, replace water lines in resident’s back yards, replace water valves currently not operable and complete a stormwater project.

According to finance and budget officer Arlen Copenhaver, the money will be used for assessment and a systemwide asset inventory.

“This will enable the town to better identify and prioritize critical water and sewer capital projects and strategically and efficiently direct funds to implement those projects,” she said.

Grant funds cover inspections of wells, distribution lines, valves and storage tanks, as well as air-release manholes, lift station, waste management facilities. It also funds GIS mapping and developing a water system asset database, and capital improvement plan for both water and sewer systems.

The Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Water Infrastructure received more than 700 applications from 94 of North Carolina’s 100 counties for the grants. The requests exceeded more than $3.1 billion.

In total, the grant money released in late July will help pay for 385 projects, including 140 construction projects and serve 86 counties. The next round of funding, totaling $119 million, is open for applications until Sept. 30.

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