Eastern Ocean Regional Access closed for weekend as Emerald Isle beach project wraps up

Beach nourishment continues Thursday in eastern Emerald Isle, but the massive project could end Monday, well before the Friday, April 30 deadline, according to Carteret County Shore Protection office manager Greg Rudolph. (Contributed photo)

EMERALD ISLE — The Emerald Isle beach nourishment project is in the home stretch and could be complete by Monday, several days before the contractual deadline.

“We have seen some incredible productivity the past few days and weeks and we could very well be completed on Monday, well before the April 30th regulatory deadline,” Greg Rudolph, manager of the Carteret County Shore Protection Office, said in an email Thursday.

As of Thursday morning, the hopper dredge Ellis Island was transitioning to pump dredged material through a submerged pipeline that emerges from the ocean at 23rd Street, will work a few blocks east and then likely flip west to work toward the Eastern Ocean Regional Access, Mr. Rudolph said.

Meanwhile, contractor Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company’s other dredge boat on the project, the Liberty Island, is working in the same general area and has been progressing east for the past several days, working off a pipe at Rhett Street.

The beach fill was right at the Ocean Drive four-wheel drive access ramp Thursday morning, and sand from the two vessels will likely meet at or just east of the EORA over the weekend after the Liberty Island takes Friday off to refuel.

As a result of all the activity in the area, the EORA will be closed Friday through Sunday, but the town’s other large beach access parking area, the Western Ocean Regional Access off Islander Drive, will be open over the weekend, as nourishment there is finished.

Mr. Rudolph urged all beachgoers in the vicinity of the EORA to be careful over the weekend and into next week.

“Because the Ellis Island and Liberty Island have been working the beach as almost two independent units for the past month and a half, there is almost double the amount of land pipe, double the amount of bulldozers and other yellow steel and double the amount of trailers and other equipment on the job,” he said in the email. “All of this equipment is basically going to converge near the Eastern Regional Access this weekend and will be subsequently removed/demobilized from the beach over the next several days.”

All of the pipes and equipment will be coming off the beach at the ramp.

“Please exercise more caution than usual if you happen to live, rent or visit the demobilization staging area,” he urged.

The $31.6 million, 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week project was to add 166,350 cubic yards of sand in the extreme western strand off Coast Guard Road. Other totals include 708,750 cubic yards to the east of that, 537,750 cubic yards in the center of town and 600,000 cubic yards in the extreme east, including the biggest erosion hot spot roughly from 10th Street to 20th Street. The project totals more than 2 million cubic yards of sand.

Most of the cost was covered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as replacement of sand lost during Hurricane Florence in September 2018.

The Friday, April 30 deadline is set because of the increasingly likelihood of sea turtles being in the area.

The 9.4-mile project started in late February, and initially there was some concern about whether it would finish on time.

“(Great Lakes) committed all the resources necessary for the project, including bringing in the Ellis Island (the largest hopper dredge in the United States) a couple days early,” Mr. Rudolph said. “Add that with some good weather and that buys us a few days, for sure.”

He also said familiarity with the project area was also a big plus.

“This is our third rodeo with Great Lakes and our engineers at Moffatt & Nichol,” he noted. Great Lakes also worked on nourishment projects on Bogue Banks in 2019 and 2020.

“This makes a huge difference,” Mr. Rudolph added.

As of Thursday, he said the Liberty Island had hauled more than 200 loads of sand to Emerald Isle from the borrow site in the ocean off Atlantic Beach and the Ellis Island had hauled more than 100. The round trip to haul each load and get back to the borrow site is roughly 30 miles.

Mr. Rudolph said the project also benefited from a new rule that allowed the vessels to travel that distance a few knots per hour faster than in the past.

“We haven’t done the exact math yet but we are saving an absolute ton of time being able to go those few extra knots an hour,” he said.

Once the project is over, Mr. Rudolph will for the first time in several years be neither planning nor overseeing a beach nourishment project.

When asked how that felt, he said: “No way I’m going there until the last grain of sand is placed on the beach – still plenty of time for things to go sideways.”

Once the Emerald Isle project is complete, a contractor will start planting vegetation on the new dunes in early May.

 

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

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