Morehead City considers shoreline stabilization grant for Sugarloaf Island

This photo shows the proposed location of a shoreline stabilization project at Sugarloaf Island, off Morehead City.  (Sandbar Oyster Co. photo)

MOREHEAD CITY — During its upcoming meeting Tuesday, the Morehead City Council will consider approving an application for a $5,000 grant from the N.C. Coastal Federation for a shoreline stabilization project at Sugarloaf Island.

The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. in the council chambers of the municipal building at 202 S. 8th St. It will also be broadcast live via Zoom for those who wish to attend virtually. Contact City Clerk Cathy Campbell at cathy.campbell@moreheadcitync.org or call 252-726-6848, ext. 139, by 3 p.m. Tuesday.

The city council first heard about the grant opportunity during its monthly workshop March 2. City Manager Ryan Eggleston told the council the NCCF has identified a small pot of grant funding for a potential project at the island, which has experienced severe shoreline erosion due to hurricanes and other factors.

If the council chooses to accept the proposal and go for the grant, the federation would partner with Sandbar Oyster Co., a local business co-founded by David Cessna, a longtime commercial fisherman, and Dr. Niels Lindquist, a professor at the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences. Mr. Cessna appeared last week to explain more about the proposed project.

“Everybody knows what’s going on at Sugarloaf. It’s leaving. The erosion is really pretty bad,” he said. “What we do is we specialize in living shorelines and restoration, gathering the sediment and doing it primarily through building oyster reefs and…trying to foster vegetation.”

The project would involve building a 50-foot oyster reef sill on the eastern tip of Sugarloaf Island, where Mr. Cessna said the erosion appears to be most significant. If it’s successful, the project could possibly expand to other parts of the island.

“My opinion is the whole thing needs addressing,” Mr. Cessna said. “…This is a starting project, this is not a one-shot cure-all.”

Councilmember George Ballou expressed some reservations about applying for the grant, saying he wants to be sure there’s a long-term plan and funding source for shoreline stabilization efforts.

“We know there’s a problem, we want to address the problem, I want to address the problem, but I’m just very concerned with going and getting grants when we don’t know the big picture,” Mr. Ballou said.

The council has discussed the erosion issue at Sugarloaf before, but it hasn’t taken any direct action to help the island up to this point.

“I think if we want to save the island and build it up that this seems to be a reasonable way to do it,” Councilmember Diane Warrender said.

Other councilmembers also seemed supportive of the proposal, saying they would likely vote to accept the grant application Tuesday. Some said they see it as a preferable alternative to traditional shoreline stabilization methods, such as groins, which they consider unsightly and hazardous to boaters.

“I don’t see a reason why we wouldn’t participate in a small demonstration project and see what we can get accomplished with relatively inexpensive technology,” Councilmember Bill Taylor said. “I’m certainly willing to look toward accepting it at the next meeting.”

 

Contact Elise Clouser at elise@thenewstimes.com; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.

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