As flooding persists in western Emerald Isle, town seeks millions through federal grant program for filtration collaboration

Emerald Isle intends to apply for a federal grant that would pay for a flood prevention system to allow stormwater to be pumped into engineered drains in oceanfront dunes in a portion of the western part of town. (Brad Rich photo)

EMERALD ISLE — Emerald Isle commissioners Tuesday night voted 5-0 to authorize town manager Matt Zapp to send the federal government a letter of intent to apply for grant funds to cover a multi-million-dollar flood prevention project.

The vote came during the board’s monthly session in the meeting room on Highway 58 and virtually via GoToWebinar.

Mr. Zapp is planning to apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities, or BRIC, money in an effort to reduce or eliminate future flooding risk and damages in Deerhorn Dunes, Pebble Beach, the Holiday Trav-L Park, Queens Court condominiums, Boardwalk RV Park and the Western Ocean Regional Access, all in the flood-prone, western end of town.

“It might be a $3- to $4- to $5-million project,” Mr. Zapp told commissioners.

In a memo to the board, he said if the town receives BRIC funds, officials will try to partner with N.C. State University to use “a proven approach to discharge stormwater by way of natural filtration” in oceanfront sand dunes and align the technique with the existing hazard mitigation and stormwater pumping plan. Emerald Isle has state approval under certain flooding conditions to pump stormwater into oceanfront dunes.

The BRIC program was created as part of the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018 to fund projects that provide “innovative approaches to partnerships, such as shared funding mechanisms and/or project design.”

Mr. Zapp said in his letter of intent – required by FEMA before the agency will accept a formal application – he will stress the “innovative” approach of working with the university on the project, using natural infiltration of the stormwater. He mentioned Kure Beach, in New Hanover County, has done something similar.

On its website, Kure Beach officials state the town years ago embarked on a long-term strategy for dealing with stormwater and flooding problems.

“In 2007, the town adopted a Storm Water Ordinance,” the website states. “Between 2005 and 2007, the town collaborated with both N.C. State University and N.C. Department of Transportation to develop and install unique infiltration systems in the dune areas to capture the first one-half inch of rain and use the sand to filter the pollutants before the water discharges to the ocean. Monitoring of these systems have shown them to work as expected.”

In 2017, that town received a state grant to study the feasibility of installing more of those systems to improve water quality and protect the beach from additional risk of bacterial contaminants and other pollutants following a rain event.

According to Mr. Zapp’s memo, the total value of buildings and land in the anticipated project area in Emerald Isle is $228.9 million, including $137.5 million for the homes and businesses in the area along Coast Guard Road, Ocean Drive and Reed Drive from just east of Sand Castle Drive to well west of Islander Drive, the location of the WORA. The densely developed area includes the large Queens Court condominium development and the new mixed-use Village West residential and shopping complex. All of those are off Islander Drive. Along Coast Guard Road, there are numerous single-family developments.

The manager told the board NCSU “has great interest” in working on the project.

Emerald Isle has been grappling with stormwater problems, particularly in the Coast Guard Road corridor, for many years and has developed with consultants a stormwater management plan that divides proposals into specific project areas.

Officials have been hoping to receive FEMA money for individual projects.

Although the town already has an extensive stormwater drainage system for the Coast Guard Road corridor and there are private systems in some developments, town planning director Josh Edmondson told the board earlier this year too much flooding still occurs after thunderstorms, not just tropical storms and hurricanes.

Commissioner Mark Taylor made the motion Tuesday authorizing Mr. Zapp to send FEMA the letter of intent.


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

(14) comments

David Collins

So , we are concerned about the first 1/2 inch of rain . Granted , that is where the most road runoff pollution lives but what about when you get more than 1/2 inch ? That is where the septic system pollutants live and there is gracious plenty of that about , especially with all the rentals . Renters care not what they flush down the pipes , for they are only there for a brief stay . Full time residents are a bit more cognizant .

The verbiage in this article is interesting as well . Starts out with flood prevention using a proven approach , pumping . This has gone on for years with with proven uselessness . Flooding has not been stopped or prevented . Water still runs down hill .

Natural filtration . Now going to pump up to the dunes to percolate to the beach . In other terms an ocean outfall . A proven crowd pleaser for tourists love that . After a fashion filters need to be changed or at least cleaned but who is looking ?

Then it goes on with the regular gobblygook about collaboration , talking , and innovation , not sure but what the heck we will try it any way , followed by the value , $$$$$ , of all this I’ll thought out infrastructure with it’s grossly inadequate planning .

Just another money grab and will be back at the trough forth with .


Expecting a different outcome this time?????? Insanity.


Grab the money and run. Right!


The communities are built on sand...sinking sand, so pumping the collected ponds of storm water from the sinking properties and roads into the dune line will only exacerbate the sinking and destroy the only protection left. Pump it into the sounds will kill and pollute the few remaining grass and shellfish beds.


Does sinking sand=rising ocean water? Sounds like the fine folks from Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay….


Done this before.Another shot in the dark.

"An effort to reduce or eliminate future flooding risk and damages in Deerhorn Dunes, Pebble Beach, the Holiday Trav-L Park, Queens Court condominiums, Boardwalk RV Park and the Western Ocean Regional Access, all in the flood-prone, western end of town".

Simple enough . This will not work based on prior efforts. Why no make a model of this proposed system and see if it works before spending the money. Can we expect some accountability - some sign of success for a change.


It seems to me if you build in a flood area it should be your responsibility and not people's tax dollars from no flood areas.

Cecil Turk

Absolutely! Why can't these rich folks pull themselves up by their own bootstraps?

David Collins

Irresponsibility is the name of the game today and the real estate industry appears to be all in . Making potential buyers aware of any potential hazards are only answered when and if one asks and never in writing . That would go against closing the deal , the all important deal .

You can’t blame the towns for fishing for the dollars in the taxpayer funded government trough . The temptation is beyond belief . The truly sad thing is how they basically throw it away on half baked schemes . At times the consultant fees and the additional cost this brings on eclipses the cost of the actual project . The results show it but it goes on and on .

Cecil Turk

This is what welfare for the rich looks like.


Natural filtration in sand dunes? What happens in reality is oil will eventually clog the sand making it impermeable, and then a new spot will be required. If they could get the permits for this boondoggle, they would be better off longbterm


Long term to just go for ocean outfall. Polluting the dunes, then remediation every few years seems foolish.

David Collins

To elevate the roads affected along with oversized culverts underneath would seem like the way to go . Of course a pathway to the sound would be needed . It is doable .

Certain that the well heeled property owners would pitch a fit if their property was affected by this but so what . Every property has an easement , don’t forget that .

I vakansiyalar

Along Coast Guard Road, there are numerous single-family developments.

Welcome to the discussion.

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