Federal 50-year beach nourishment plan poses problems

This Carteret County Shore Protection Office graphic shows the pros and cons of the county moving to a federal beach nourishment program. (Contributed graphic)

EMERALD ISLE — The Carteret County Beach Commission got a briefing Monday on the pros and cons of proceeding with a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 50-year master plan for Bogue Banks beach nourishment, but made no decision and willconsult with officials in the towns on the island.

Several members of the panel, which advises the Carteret County Shore Protection Office, expressed misgivings about the plan.

“I’m very concerned about giving up local control,” said panel member Jim Normile, an Emerald Isle town commissioner, in response to the written and oral presentation by Greg Rudolph, manager of the shore protection office.

The meeting was in the Emerald Isle commission meeting room, with several members participating remotely by Zoom.

Mr. Normile and Atlantic Beach Mayor Trace Cooper, chairperson of the beach commission, also expressed concern about the costs to meet the 50-year federal plan’s requirement that the entire 22.7-mile project have a public beach access every half mile, with a minimum of 10 parking spaces anywhere within a quarter-mile radius of each.

Mr. Cooper noted it would be very expensive to buy the property for those additional accesses. Others noted that while access is desirable, some don’t want parking lots in their neighborhoods.

Mr. Rudolph said while his office supports beach access, “Acquiring property, easements, construction and maintenance of the parking areas, and consideration of neighborhood property owners are also major costs and political endeavors that must be factored into the decision-making.”

The county has been working on the federal plan for more than a decade, and the ACE last year announced it had approved a $44 million allocation to bolster the plan, which establishes a schedule, with federal cost-sharing, for nourishing beaches on the island over 50 years.

The ACE has already approved the plan, formally known as the Coastal Storm Damage Reduction plan, but had not until last year provided any funds for it. It’s been in the works for more than a decade.

If adopted, the CSDR plan would stabilize costs and commit millions of federal dollars to Bogue Banks. But the county, under its own similar plan, has spent millions of local, state and federal dollars in recent years in a successful effort to periodically nourish the strand from western Atlantic Beach to the western tip of Emerald Isle.

The CSDR plan, like the county’s, uses objective parameters to gauge beach health and trigger future nourishment. The CSDR streamlines the permitting process, identifies long-term sand sources and specifies expected costs and beach and dune construction parameters.

Mr. Rudolph has shepherded the plan since its inception.

So far, he said Wednesday, the county has spent $1,629,225 to study the feasibility of the plan and another $350,000 on engineering and design. The federal government has spent $2,943,503 on the feasibility study and $1.3 million on engineering and design. The state has kicked in $1,299,225 on the feasibility study and $350,000 for engineering and design.

That’s a total of more than $7.5 million. Mr. Rudolph said if the county doesn’t move ahead with the plan, that $44 million allocation from the ACE would disappear.

He said during the meeting Monday another negative to the plan is that, “We would lose eligibility for the federal government to reimburse the communities for replacing the sand lost during a federally-declared disaster.

“The (Federal Emergency Management Agency),” he said, “requires local communities to build an engineered beach at their expense, and then develop and adhere to a monitoring and maintenance program to qualify for reimbursement. If we proceed with CSDR Project, then the local communities have allowed the (ACE) to build/supersede the local engineered beach and that alone would negate any future FEMA reimbursement.”

In other words, he said, one federal agency can’t pay for another federal agency to rebuild their project after a hurricane.

Since Hurricane Irene in 2004, “FEMA has provided $87,862,725 to the Bogue Banks communities.”

There are other issues, as well. Although the cost-share for the CSDR plan is good for the county, he said, “the federal appropriation process is quite sloppy and unreliable” and often shortchanges the ACE, Mr. Rudolph said.

Loss of local control over projects is also worrisome, he agreed, echoing Mr. Normile and Pine Knoll Shores Town Manager Brian Kramer, who was in the audience.

“We would have very little influence with respect to design, the bidding process, construction administration, sequencing and timing and cost-control,” Mr. Rudolph said. “We may have data supporting that one area of Bogue Banks needs sand the most, but the (ACE) can place the sand elsewhere.”

Finally, he added, the county would have to acquire 1,203 oceanfront property easements at its own expense. He estimated that alone could cost $2.4 million.

For more detailed information on the proposed CSDR plan, visit carteretcountync.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_06222020-1144 and scroll down to agenda item No. 4.

 

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

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