Emerald Isle, Atlantic Beach nourishment projects progress simultaneously

A three-wheeled Coastal Research Amphibious Buggy towers above the beach Saturday in Emerald Isle as dredged sand piles up around it as part of an ongoing nourishment project. The vehicle monitors the effort to make sure the right amounts of sand go in the correct places. (Carteret County Shore Protection Office photo)

EMERALD ISLE — After several delays, the 2-million-cubic-yard Emerald Isle beach nourishment project got underway late Friday afternoon.

Greg Rudolph, manager of the Carteret County Shore Protection Office, said Saturday the Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co. hopper dredge Liberty Island reached far western Emerald Isle with the first load of sand about 8:30 p.m. Friday. By Monday, he said the boat and associated land crews had been working non-stop, as such efforts do, barring inclement weather or mechanical issues.

“The Liberty Island has been working … through the fog, wind, and other elements this past weekend,” Mr. Rudolph said in an email. “She has a 6,540 cubic yard capacity or, as I like to think of it, she can hold 6,540 cubic yards of air.

“In reality, she is holding/transporting, pumping closer to 5,000 cubic yards, which immediately tells me we’re pumping some really nice, heavy sand.”

The area where the work is occurring now is the farthest segment in the project from the sand borrow site off Atlantic Beach, Mr. Rudolph added, so it’s taking roughly six hours to complete a cycle. That cycle includes dredging, sailing to west Emerald Isle, pumping out the hopper dredge to the beach, then sailing back to the borrow source.

“Loosely, that’s 20,000 cubic yards a day (and) that’s really good considering the sail, and that cycle time will get shorter once we complete the far western Emerald Isle reach and move to central Emerald Isle and closer to the borrow site,” Mr. Rudolph said.

Plus, the Ellis Island, also owned by Great Lakes, will arrive soon to work in tandem with the Liberty Island. The Ellis Island is the biggest hopper dredge in the U.S., holding 14,800 cubic yards of air, “likely over 10,000 cubic yards of sand per load,” the manager noted.

As of Monday morning, about 1,000 linear feet of beach in western Emerald Isle was complete.

“The far Emerald Isle Reach is 6,000 linear feet, so we hope to be completed with that reach in about two weeks, barring weather or mechanicals,” Mr. Rudolph said.

Once a dredge arrives in Emerald Isle, it pumps the sand to the beach through a submerged pipeline, which spits out on the strand, spewing a mixture of about 80% water and 20% sand into a shore pipe that carries the mix to heavy equipment waiting to smooth it into place according to engineered specifications.

The project totals 9.4 linear miles of beach, with 166,350 cubic yards of sand to be deposited in the extreme western strand off Coast Guard Road, 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.

The work, known as phase three of the post-Hurricane Florence Bogue Banks nourishment project, is to cost $31,611,770, with most of the money coming from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Meanwhile, an effort to dredge channels at the N.C. Port of Morehead City and spread the sand on the strand at Fort Macon State Park and Atlantic Beach continues at the opposite end of the island.

It’s being handled by a pipeline dredge, the J.S. Chatry, and Weeks Marine of New Jersey. The sand is piped directly from the vessel to the beach through a pipe, then spread, so there’s no sailing back and forth.

“That takes some serious horsepower to pump the sand all the way from (the port harbor), onto the beach, and then all the way to The Circle (development district) by the time they are done,” Mr. Rudolph said in the email. “A pipeline dredge is … not as sea-worthy … as a hopper dredge because of the design of the vessel and all the anchors and support vessels it needs to operate, so it is a little more sensitive to sea conditions.”

Mr. Rudolph said he’s been impressed by the progress, even though the vessel recently spent some time in port because of weather. He expects the fresh sand to be past the Oceanana Pier by Wednesday.

All of this, on both ends of Bogue Banks, is happening in the midst of a warm spell that is attracting more and more people to the beach each day. As a result, Mr. Rudolph said, “We’re trying to keep safety in the forefront for both projects.”

The target in the port-Atlantic Beach project is 1,143,000 cubic yards of sand along 13,861 linear feet. It started with dredging Dec. 29, then transitioned to concurrent beach nourishment, first at Fort Macon Jan. 6. It’s an $18 million federal project, and Atlantic Beach gets the sand free because it’s the closest disposal site for ongoing effort to keep the port channels open.

Both projects must end by Friday, April 30 because of environmental laws designed largely to protect sea turtles.


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

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