PINE KNOLL SHORES — The Carteret County Beach Commission voted unanimously Monday afternoon to proceed toward a nourishment project that could put 2.6 million cubic yards of sand on the beach in Pine Knoll Shores, central and western Emerald Isle, Salter Path and western Atlantic Beach by the end of next spring, if not earlier.

The board voted during its monthly meeting in Pine Knoll Shores town hall after a long presentation by Greg Rudolph, Carteret County Shore Protection Office manager, and representatives of Moffatt & Nichol, the county’s beach engineering firm, including coastal engineer Johnny Martin.

Mr. Rudolph last week said the project could cost $40 to $50 million.

It will be bid as one project, based on the commission’s vote Monday, but in two parts. The first is a base bid, for Pine Knoll Shores and central Emerald Isle, which were not nourished during a recently completed project that cost $21 million.

The second part – to be bid as an option – would include the Salter Path area around the county beach access, as well as western Atlantic Beach and western Emerald Isle.

Atlantic Beach Mayor Trace Cooper, who Monday was re-elected chairman of the beach commission, said he understood why his town’s west end was not in the “base” bid.

“I’d like to get Atlantic Beach done, but we’re not a (Federal Emergency Management Agency)-engineered beach,” he said referring to the fact that the town over the years has received free sand from dredging the N.C. Port of Morehead City and isn’t eligible for FEMA money for sand lost during Hurricane Florence last September.

The county has applied for $60 million in FEMA money for sand loss, and Mr. Martin said the county needs roughly half of that in order to proceed with the base and the option together.

The county, Mr. Rudolph said, could handle the base project with $12 million from its beach nourishment reserve fund, $4 million from the local governments involved and an expected $3-5 million from an $18 million pool of money the state legislature set aside for beach nourishment after Florence.

Mr. Rudolph and Mr. Martin presented the beach commission three options. The first was to go out for bid only for the base, then go out to bid later for the option. The third was to bid both, but to set a completion date of Friday, April 30, 2021.

The latter would give a successful bidder more flexibility and maybe enable a lower total price, but the 2021 completion date might mean no sand would be added to the beaches at all in 2019-20.

Audible groans came up from commission members, including Pine Knoll Shores Mayor Ken Jones, when that option was mentioned. Pine Knoll Shores was supposed to have been included in the recently completed project in Indian Beach, Salter Path and eastern Emerald Isle, but was dropped because of cost.

Commission members opposed option one because they didn’t want to preclude the possibility of doing the whole project – base plus option – if FEMA money arrives in time to make the cost bearable.

“I don’t want to discount the opportunity to get it all done if the FEMA money comes in in time,” said Jim Normile, an Emerald Isle town commissioner and vice chairman of the beach commission. Still, beach commissioners and Mr. Rudolph said the most likely scenario under the second option is the base project will begin in November and the option project will begin in late winter or early spring of 2020, with a completion date of Thursday, April 30, 2020.

Mr. Cooper said going out for bid on the base and the option at the same time “sends the right message to the community that we are looking at the whole beach. It might not all happen this year, but we tried.”

Mr. Martin said the goal is to go out for bids and award a contract by Wednesday, July 31. If the FEMA money hasn’t arrived by Sunday, June 30, he said, the bidders would need to know the option project would be done next year.

Still, he said, seeking bids for a project of 2.6 million cubic yards might solicit more bids from contractors – and maybe a lower cost – than seeking bids for only the 1.2-million-cubic-yard base project.

Last year, for the recently completed project, the county got only one bid, from Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co., and had to wait until the second round of bidding to open it because state law requires two in the first round.

That factor likely raised the cost of the project, which county officials originally had estimated would be around $17.5 million. Great Lakes’ successful bid was $20.1 million.

If all goes as envisioned, Pine Knoll Shores would get 716,310 cubic yards of sand and central Emerald Isle would get 472,316 cubic yards as the base project.

In the option, western Atlantic Beach would get 428,970 cubic yards, western Emerald Isle, including the Bogue Inlet area, would get 927,280 cubic yards and the Salter Path “hole” would get 90,090 cubic yards.

The “hole” area includes the county beach access, which is state-owned. That ownership, Mr. Rudolph said, is part of the reason the “hole” in Salter Path wasn’t part of this spring’s project.

“We were pushed for time and it would have taken some time to get the necessary easements from the state,” he said.

In addition, the portions that were done in Emerald Isle and Indian Beach this year were in towns that have their own taxpayer-raised beach nourishment funds and the towns each paid a share of the cost from those funds.

While eastern Atlantic Beach has been nourished regularly for the past few decades by free sand from port dredging projects, western Atlantic Beach hasn’t received any sand in recent years, nor has western Emerald Isle or the Salter Path access area.

Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.

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