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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Federally protected inlets one step closer to being permanently dredged for beaches

House Resolution 254 to amend the Coastal Barrier Resources Act, sponsored by the Cape Fear’s Rep. David Rouzer, passed the U.S. House of Representatives on April 11. (Port City Daily/file photo)

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — A law that would allow local beaches to go back to dredging sand in federally protected areas is one step closer to passage in Congress. 

READ MORE: NHC municipalities support federal beach renourishment rule change, too late for WB project

House Resolution 254 to amend the Coastal Barrier Resources Act, sponsored by the Cape Fear’s Rep. David Rouzer, passed the U.S. House of Representatives on April 11; it now heads to Senate consideration. On Monday, it was referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works.

The resolution has received bipartisan support, with Rep. Jared Huffman (D-California) and Tom Tiffany (R-Wisconsin) speaking in favor of it during the House session on April 11. 

The resolution would allow federal funds for coastal storm risk management projects that pull sand from borrow sites considered a Coastal Barrier Resources System. Based on a 2021 rule change, renourishment projects in Wrightsville, Carolina and Kure beaches were barred from using federal money, which make up the majority of project funding, to pull from sites used for decades. 

On April 11, Rouzer touted Wrightsville Beach’s historical use of Masonboro Inlet, without detriment to the coastal ecosystem. Sand from Wrightsville Beach erodes and deposits into the inlet; every four years, that sand is returned to the shore in beach renourishment.

“For 50 years, this natural cycle has served as a reliable ecological borrow site for our coastal community — and, by the way, is home to an abundance of wildlife,” Rouzer said. “Placement of the sand solidifies the dunes and berms, creating a natural protective barrier for the community that protects both property and life. This process has been the most cost-effective and ecologically friendly for other coastal communities with similar natural erosion cycles as well.”

Rouzer noted without passage of H.R. 254, taxpayers will face skyrocketing costs associated with using an offshore borrow site. Doing so would increase the price tag to $25 million, compared to the $11.9 million that was paid in 2018.

“Reversing this action to, once again, permit the use of a beach’s natural, historic borrow site is imperative for physical resiliency and safety, as well as the local economic benefits that accrue,” Rouzer said.

The Coastal Barrier Resources Act prevents federal funds from being used for development within vulnerable coastal areas. The law is intended to eliminate federal responsibility for, and thus deter, building structures in coastal barriers. Development in CBRA zones  is associated with natural resource loss, threats to human life, health, and property, and the expenditure of millions of tax dollars each year.

Masonboro, Mason and Carolina Beach inlets have been designated CBRA zones since 1982, though beach renourishment projects that pull from those inlets in Wrightsville, Carolina and Kure beaches have been exempt from the law’s provisions. That changed in 2021 when the Biden administration reinterpreted the law.

New Hanover County’s beach towns pull from the sites were forced to look elsewhere for sand. The Pleasure Island communities found an offshore site fairly easily, but Wrightsville Beach had a harder time and its scheduled 2022 renourishment project was missed. 

The United States Army Corps of Engineers, the agency funding and executing the project, located an offshore site in July 2022, but it was riddled with disintegrating tires, part of a 1970’s coral reef project. USACE continued to analyze the feasibility of the project, but in May 2022, reversed course and used an emergency exemption — necessitated by the erosion of Wrightsville Beach — to CBRA for a one-time dredge of Masonboro Inlet. It wrapped earlier this month.

If H.R. 254 passes, local beaches will be able to pull from their historical inlets in perpetuity. Other municipalities that the exemption previously applied to will also be able to continue doing so.

CATCH UP ON PCD REPORTING: 

USACE reverses course again to use Masonboro Inlet for WB dredge under emergency exception

It’s been 57 months since WB was renourished — and it is delayed again

Out of options, WB chooses offshore dredge site, may disturb 50-year-old tire reef

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

New Biden administration policy could jeopardize beach renourishment formula for local towns


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