CHERRY POINT — With a $400,000 grant from the state, the N.C. Coastal Federation is getting ready to start one of its biggest living shoreline projects yet.
Gov. Roy Cooper announced last month that $14.6 million in grants has been issued through the N.C. Land and Water Fund, formerly known as the Clean Water Management Trust Fund. Among these grants is $400,000 going to the NCCF, a Carteret County-based nonprofit dedicated to protecting the state’s coastal environment. This grant, along with $1 million Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point personnel applied for from the Department of Defense Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Challenge program will be used to build a 2,100-foot living shoreline at Cherry Point.
NCCF Executive Director Todd Miller said in an email Tuesday this is probably the largest contiguous living shoreline project the federation has engaged in to-date.
“The recent sill constructed at White’s Point in Atlantic in cooperation with Carteret County covered 1,720 feet,” he said, “and we’ve also completed a recent project in Oriental that was about the same size.”
Cherry Point Communication, Strategy and Operations Officer in Charge 1st Lt. Aaron Ladd said in an email Tuesday permit application and National Environmental Policy Act documentation are underway for the project, and approval is expected this spring.
NCCF coastal scientist Dr. Lexia Weaver said the federation has been working with Cherry Point since 2018 to explore the use of living shorelines along the base’s eroding Neuse River shoreline.
“MCAS Cherry Point approached us after hearing about the large-scale living shorelines we’d built in the area, including the recently constructed living shorelines in the towns of Oriental and Atlantic,” Dr. Weaver said. “The living shoreline will be built in front of base housing that’s been experiencing severe erosion from past hurricanes and storms. It’s part of a longer living shoreline project, all of which will protect base infrastructure and housing form ongoing erosion. Losing the infrastructure or housing would damage the base’s mission.”
In addition to the 2,100-foot living shoreline currently being funded, Dr. Weaver said base personnel have also secured $8 million in emergency funding for repairs from Hurricane Florence in 2018. The money will be used to build an additional 6,000 feet of living shoreline at other portions of the base’s shoreline along the river.
Mr. Miller said the federation is working with Cherry Point personnel on this larger project.
“They’ve sought our input and advice as they’ve moved forward with their efforts to build living shorelines to protect the base,” he said. “This will be a huge project when completed, and no doubt will be the largest single project in North Carolina.”
In addition, the federation partnered with Duke University Marine Lab on Pivers Island. Dr. Weaver said through the lab’s Pew Charitable Trust-funded study at the base, the federation and lab will “discuss the decision-making and development process” of the living shoreline project.
“The project should be complete by the end of 2021 or the beginning of 2022,” Dr. Weaver said.
Cherry Point personnel are conducting ongoing facility transitions, which includes the living shorelines. 1st Lt. Ladd said over the next 10 years, more than $1 billion is budgeted to be spent at the base. These updates to infrastructure and facilities are largely being made to accommodate one of the newest jets made for the U.S. military, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
“Before the air station can receive its first F-35’s in September 2023, tremendous upgrades and improvements to infrastructure and facilities needs to occur,” 1st Lt. Ladd said, “such as the construction of three enormous hangars to accommodate six F-35 squadrons.”
Officials broke ground on the first of the hangars Sept. 4. Meanwhile, 1st Lt. Ladd said in the midst of renovations, attention to environmental stewardship hasn’t been lost.
“MCAS Cherry Point has an ongoing relationship with the N.C. Coastal Federation,” he said. “They are local experts on coastal protection and living shorelines, so we frequently request their involvement on our coastal projects. This project in particular is a huge undertaking that will serve Cherry Point for many years to come.”
He said having several properties with coastal shorelines, Cherry Point personnel understand the importance of resiliency and “are hoping to protect our shorelines for the foreseeable future.”
“The construction of shoreline protection measures will improve installation resiliency by curtailing erosion, promoting ecosystem health and providing water quality benefits,” he said.
Contact Mike Shutak at 252-723-7353, email firstname.lastname@example.org; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.