It was incorrectly reported in Wednesday’s edition that the Boathouse and Front Street Village were not in town. The development was annexed in 2008.
BEAUFORT — A nonprofit group has formed to raise money to help pay for dredging of the channel at the east end of Taylor’s Creek.
If the group fails to generate at least $50,000 for the effort in about the next two weeks, the needed dredging is not likely to happen for some time, according to the town manager.
Navigation in the east channel has been a recurring problem due to sand filling in through natural processes. Money the town receives for regular dredging of Bulkhead Channel, which is at the west of end of Taylor’s Creek and within Beaufort’s corporate limits, cannot be used at the east end of the creek, which is beyond the town limits.
Marina operator and developer Bucky Oliver, real estate agent Lenore Meadows and yacht broker Pam Valente are leading the effort. They recently created a 501(c)3 nonprofit group, Friends of Taylor’s Creek Access, with the mission of keeping the east entrance of Taylor’s Creek dredged to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers standards – a depth of 7 feet mean low water and a channel width of 75 feet. Shoaling has reduced depth in the channel to less than 4 feet in spots.
“Even the shallowest draft boats are having problems over there, especially at low tide, Ms. Meadows told the News-Times Friday.
Ms. Meadows said she and Mr. Oliver first discussed how to address the channel problem in October 2014. Since then, the organization has geared up quickly.
“Pam Valente is a yacht broker with her captain’s license and she’s very knowledgeable about local waters. She and I joined forces after my conversation with Bucky and decided to head this up,” Ms. Meadows said. “She and I have been working on this since November to start the nonprofit and everything that goes along with that. The town of Beaufort is coordinating and facilitating us.”
FOTCA seeks to generate the $50,000 needed as a local match for the $100,000 total cost to dredge the east channel when work begins in Bulkhead Channel later this month.
Mr. Oliver said he had been interested in improving the eastern channel since he launched the Boathouse at Front Street Village in 2012.
The operation includes a drystack marina, docks and fuel service, with plans for another drystack across Lennoxville Road.
The facility is not in town.
The Boathouse is providing financial support, covering the initial up-front expenses of forming the nonprofit group and contributing to it a portion of each gallon of gas sold at the marina.
“I’ve agreed to be involved and to be one of the people to help steer it,” Mr. Oliver said. “A number of our customers have said they’re glad to contribute too, to benefit the whole community. We think there’s a tremendous opportunity for a return of the commercial traffic that has been tradition on Taylor’s Creek.”
The Boathouse will donate 5 cents per gallon of gas sold there for the remainder of 2015 and beyond, Mr. Oliver said.
The business will make other contributions and host fundraising events, too, he said. Money raised will be provided to the town as a means of piggybacking on Beaufort’s regular dredge projects.
The town, operating under a memorandum of agreement with the N.C. Division of Water Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, must be the entity that provides the matching funds, even if only as a pass-through between the nonprofit group and the division.
Beaufort Town Manager Charlie Burgess said Monday the N.C. Legislature had allocated funds to the water resources division for shallow-draft inlet dredging that wouldn’t otherwise be priority projects for the Corps, but that funding comes with the stipulation that the local entity must provide a 50 percent match for the projects under memorandum of agreement or MOA.
“We’ve been using this MOA for the past couple years for dredge projects in Bulkhead Channel,” Mr. Burgess said.
Beaufort’s MOA includes not only Bulkhead Channel but also Gallants Channel, the harbor of refuge, Morgan Creek and all of Taylor’s Creek.
“We do a fall and a spring dredge of Bulkhead Channel because it shoals in so much,” Mr. Burgess said, adding that last fall, the total project costs was $110,000, of which the town footed $55,000. This spring, the Corps’ estimated cost is $120,000.
“We have $24,000 still left in our appropriation and we’re asking assistance from the county, but if not, we still have to dredge,” Mr. Burgess said of the Bulkhead Channel situation.
To add the east channel in Taylor’s Creek would add another $100,000 to the total cost. The matching funds for that to happen must come from FOTCA.
“Before we send funds out, we’ll need to be in receipt of that $50,000. If not, the project would not go,” Mr. Burgess said.
Time is tight. The work in Bulkhead Channel is set to begin around the third week of this month and the town must receive the $50,000 from FOTCA by then.
Mr. Burgess said the town’s role in getting the east channel dredged is strictly as a facilitator.
“The town doesn’t put money up directly for this,” he said.
If the money is raised, the Corps will use the same special-purpose type of hopper dredge, the Currituck, which can move up to 3,500 cubic yards of sand a day and is in high demand along the coast. Using the Currituck while it’s here will yield savings in setup costs.
The Corps must pay for the dredge to get here from its current project in Chincoteague, Va.
The travel cost is substantial, Mr. Burgess said, and that’s in addition to the roughly $1,500 per hour dredge operation time.
“In our case, they take our dredge spoils offshore and the time that it takes to go offshore is also at $1,500 an hour,” Mr. Burgess said. “We’re pleased to be in a position to do this and pleased to be able to provide assistance to other parts of the area to improve navigation.”
Mr. Burgess said the dredging at the west end of the creek is driven by the need to support the town docks and other commercial interests in town. Taking care of the east end will have similar economic benefits, he said.
Mr. Oliver agreed. He said commercial traffic that includes the fishing industry and island ferry and cruise operators could see immediate benefits from a navigable east channel.
“We think those boats are going to welcome the opportunity of being able to go all the way out rather than having to turn around,” Mr. Oliver said, referring to sightseeing tour operators.
Mr. Oliver said he was happy to see town docks operator Haywood Weeks contribute to the organization.
“That was reassuring to me that it was a community effort when someone in our same industry says ‘we’re going to help in this effort,’” he said.
Contact Mark Hibbs at 252-726-7081, ext. 229; email email@example.com; or follow on Twitter @markhibbs.