EMERALD ISLE — The Carteret County Beach Commission voted unanimously Monday to recommend the county “stay the course” and not opt into a federal nourishment program for Bogue Banks.
The decision was reached at the panel’s meeting in the Emerald Isle commissioners’ meeting room and online via Zoom.
If the county approves the panel’s recommendation, it means Carteret will remain with the current beach nourishment plan, which uses a mix of county occupancy tax money, state money and periodic Federal Emergency Management Agency money to pay for nourishment projects, rather than enter into a federal cost-sharing agreement that depends on annual budget allocations to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which would design and supervise nourishment projects. The federal plan would eliminate use of FEMA money for county beach projects.
Atlantic Beach Mayor Trace Cooper, chairperson of the beach commission, said during the panel’s meeting Monday he wasn’t sure federal funding under the ACE program would be reliable, given the unpredictable nature of the federal budget for the agency.
Although federal emergency funding of beach nourishment projects along Bogue Banks is questionable now, Mr. Cooper said, FEMA has come through in recent years, providing money to pay to replace sand lost to hurricanes. He credited the state’s federal delegation, as well as state legislative leaders, for making sure that has consistently happened.
“I think we should stay the course,” Mr. Cooper said in the meeting. “We’re fortunate we have two good options. But what we are doing is working, let’s stay with it.”
Others on the panel agreed.
County at-large beach panel member Larry Baldwin said his concern was what was most reliable in terms of future funding, and the current program looked best to him.
“It is probably in our best interest,” he said. “There are pros and cons, but I think we should stay with our current plan.”
Emerald Isle Town Commissioner and beach commission vice chairperson Jim Normile concurred.
“I’d like to stay the course,” he said.
County Shore Protection Manager Greg Rudolph said he’d present the plan to officials in all of the Bogue Banks towns before presenting it formally to county commissioners, who will make the ultimate decision. He also said he would correspond with the ACE.
Mr. Rudolph’s office has been working with the agency on the plan for about 20 years. He told the beach panel he believes that since the county’s joint plan with the federal agency has been approved by federal officials, the issue could be revisited in the future.
The 50-year federal plan is called the Bogue Banks Coastal Storm Risk Management Project and is supposed to provide 65% federal money to augment 35% local money for an initial beach nourishment project, as well as at least 50% of the cost of future maintenance nourishment when measured erosion “triggers” show projects are warranted. The current county plan relies on similar triggers.
So far, according to Mr. Rudolph, the county has spent $1.6 million to study the feasibility of the plan and another $350,000 on engineering and design. The federal government has spent $2.9 million on the feasibility study and $1.3 million on engineering and design. The state has kicked in $1.29 million on the feasibility study and $350,000 for engineering and design.
The ACE has allocated the county $44.5 million for the project. That will go away if the county opts out of the federal plan.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.