Saturday, July 20, 2024

Topsail dredging project prevents beach access for vehicles, horses in upcoming season

Dredging on Topsail Beach’s south end is expected to begin in November and take place through March, making beach access passes for horses and vehicles closed to the public in the 2023 season. (Courtesy photo)

TOPSAIL BEACH — Leaders in a small beach town have decided to not offer certain access permits for the 2023-2024 season due to a renourishment project set to begin in mid-November. 

READ MORE: Topsail commissioners extend timeline on Point rezoning

Town officials said they will forfeit roughly $20,000 in revenue from the decision, which was made in the best interest of the public’s safety. 

A company from Norfolk, Virginia has been contracted to dredge the beach starting in two months, which means the shoreline will have heavy machinery lining it. Topsail Beach commissioners agreed with staff’s suggestion that vehicles and horses should not be in the path of construction. 

“I think it’s too much strain on our staff and I think in the future when we are dredging, people will know there won’t be any driving,” Commissioner Tim Zizack said at Sept. 13’s meeting. “It probably needs to be a policy for future nourishment years.” 

According to town manager Doug Shipley, staff met with local coastal engineering company TI Coastal to determine whether driving access should be allowed during the nourishment project. The company suggested closing it off this season to make access for the project easier.

Beach access permits are normally sold between Oct. 1 and Jan. 15 for vehicles and between Oct. 1 and March 30 for horses. Costs range from $25 to $100.

“How much would we lose if we disrupted the dredging operation,” Commissioner Frank Braxton theoretically asked his colleagues at the meeting. “Is it worth it?” 

Commissioners were concerned over the town’s liability increasing by selling vehicle beach passes in the midst of a construction zone. 

“Not selling passes would make it easier for the people doing the work and for our staff trying to manage it,” Zizack said.

Shipley said they could do a shortened window of pass sales, from Oct. 1 through mid-November, ahead of the dredging project. 

“That is six weeks of the beach being clear, assuming no delays,” he said. 

“It’s a good chunk of revenue, but agreeing with Frank’s point, we have to balance the good and the bad,” Zizack said. 

It’s the first time the beach has been renourished since 2020 (vehicle passes were sold during that time frame). Town officials did not stop selling beach access permits during the last renourishment project because there was minimal work being done from Drum Avenue down to Serenity Point. 

However, this time around the project’s equipment  will block the one vehicle entrance onto Topsail Beach, located at the intersection of Drum Avenue and Ocean Boulevard. 

Construction, headed by Norfolk Dredging Company, will mainly take place between Drum Avenue and Serenity Point, toward the southern end of the island. Shipley said piping will expand 6 miles on the beach side; there will also be some impact on the sound side. 

“It is possible the beach may not be accessible for a two- to three-week period,” he added, meaning vehicular and foot traffic, “assuming everything goes well.” 

The nourishment project is set to begin on Nov. 16 and has an expected completion date by the end of March, according to the town’s Beach, Inlet and Sound Committee. The committee met with state regulators about its permitting, to be in hand by October. 

The cost of the project is estimated to be $22 million. The town plans to give $6 to $7 million out of its BIS fund toward its final costs. 

“We are discussing a communication plan for the dredging project. During the last one we met every week,” BIS Committee Chairman William Snyder said at the meeting. “We want to keep all the townspeople involved knowing exactly where we are at. We are discussing how we will communicate that to everyone.”

Parking a car and walking onto the beach to fish will still be allowed this season. Town officials say they expect to make beach access permits available next year for the 2024-2025 season. 

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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