BEAUFORT — The Carteret County Board of Commissioners Monday approved a $1 million expenditure for the first phase of a multi-year study that aims to identify sources of sand for future beach nourishment projects.
The matter was originally part of the consent agenda for the meeting, held Monday evening at the administration complex in Beaufort, but commissioners pulled it for further discussion as some board members had questions about the purpose and scope of the high-dollar study. Greg Rudolph, manager of the County Shore Protection Office, and Jim Normile, chairperson of the County Beach Commission, appeared to share information about the proposal with commissioners.
“It’s not because we’re in opposition, it’s because when you mentioned $1 million, some of the newer members, including myself…$1 million captures our attention,” County Board of Commissioners Chairperson Ed Wheatly said as he introduced the matter to the public.
The entire study will cost around $2.95 million, with the initial $1 million expenditure to be spent on engineering needs for phase one of the project, which has been dubbed the Master Plan Sand Resource and Reserve project. The county will contract with engineering firm Moffat & Nichol on the effort, the same firm that oversaw the post-Hurricane Florence beach nourishment that placed around 6 million cubic yards of sand onto the Bogue Banks strand.
As Mr. Normile explained, that post-Florence nourishment project nearly depleted the county’s sand reserves, so the purpose of the study is to identify a location of sand resources that can be used for future nourishment needs.
“We just used about 6 million cubic yards of sand. We have about that much more currently on hand that we are permitted to access in emergent times,” Mr. Normile said. “However, if we were to be faced with another Florence-level storm that would most likely deplete most of that 6 million cubic yards, and we don’t want to be in that position. So really what we’re doing here is vision casting for the future, we want to identify enough sand resources.”
Some county commissioners questioned the need for a so-called “sand search” when it appears the county has an abundance of the resource, but Mr. Rudolph said there are strict state and federal regulations that dictate the quality of sand that may be used in nourishment projects. He said the sand itself must be also permitted for use before it’s allowed to be placed on the strand.
“The state and federal government have all sorts of, not just environmental requirements and archaeology requirements, but also sand requirements,” he noted.
The beach commission already has a spot in mind about 9 miles offshore where engineers plan to survey and analyze sand deposits. Mr. Rudolph said scientists, engineers, regulators and others will all be involved in the effort.
The money for the sand study will come out of the county’s beach nourishment fund, which is made up from half of the 6% occupancy tax collected from hotels, vacation rental homes and other temporary lodgings. The Crystal Coast Tourism Development Authority receives the other half. Mr. Rudolph noted the main advantage of using the occupancy tax to fund beach nourishment is that it is paid for by tourists, rather than residents.
Further, he said there is great interest in the sand study by other agencies, including the N.C. Division of Coastal Management and the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Mr. Rudolph said it’s possible those agencies or others could provide some funding for the multi-year study further down the line.
After having their questions answered, commissioners seemed in favor of the project and voted unanimously to approve the contract with Moffat & Nichol for the study, along with the initial $1 million to fund the effort.
County Commissioner Chuck Shinn was not present for Monday’s meeting.
Contact Elise Clouser at email@example.com; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.