Beach rebuilding will start Wednesday in South Nags Head
After holding up nearly four years longer than expected, Nags Head’s rebuilt beach will get another shot of sand, with offshore dredging scheduled to start Wednesday.
Work will get under way near Pelican Street in South Nags Head at milepost 20.5 and move south about a mile and a half to the National Park Service line.
While the original project, which was finished in 2011, has withstood hurricanes and nor’easters, the elements have completely eaten away the sand that was added at the extreme southern end of the 10-mile stretch.
Sand will be offloaded from Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co. vessels into terminals not far beyond the surfline. Pipes will then carry it onto the beach to waiting bulldozers, which will spread the slurry around.
Next, crews will move north from Pelican Street toward the Outer Banks Fishing Pier and eventually on to Jennette’s Pier.
Meanwhile, work has started on installing another pipeline to the beach at the north end of town between Conch and Hollowell streets near Milepost 11.5. Work will start around mid-May and progress north to Milepost 11, then south from the pipeline to near Conch Street.
Great Lakes Dredge and Dock handled the 2011 project, which was the first on the northern coast of North Carolina. It was initiated by Nags Head after a long-planned federal project was never funded for northern Dare County.
Dare County picked up half of the tab from its Shoreline Management Fund, which is made up of 1 percent of the occupancy tax. Nags Head covered its half of the $36 million cost of the 2011 project by issuing bonds and paying them back with a 2-cent townwide tax and an additional levy on oceanside property owners.
Skeptics questioned whether the work would hold up for five years, which was the projected time originally projected for renourishment. But the beach in some areas actually became wider. In some instances, the dunes grew so tall that they became a nuisance to property owners, who had to dig out swimming pools and push sand away from buildings.
Great Lakes representatives said that they expect construction this time to take 90 to 120 days, depending on weather and continued equipment operation.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay $16 million of the $42.7 million total cost to cover sand losses attributed to Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
But Nags Head will have to borrow the money upfront until FEMA provides a reimbursement after the project is finished. The town’s Board of Commissioners has approved two bond issues, one for the FEMA reimbursement amount and another for $11.38 million.
Local property owners will pay back the second loan over five years with an addition 2 cents per $100 of value, which they have been paying since 2011. Owners on the oceanside will pay an additional 17.5 cents.
Original plans were to get started last spring. But the board delayed the project after bids came in well over the $34 million budget.
Great Lakes, which also handled work in 2017 from Duck to Kill Devil Hills, was the low bidder for the new Nags Head project with a proposal of $36,644,500.
Bringing the total to $42.7 million are engineering costs, a contingency fund, ocean outfall work, turtle monitoring, beach profile monitoring, sand fencing and other fees.
Besides the bond money, $9.57 million will come from the Dare County Beach Nourishment Fund and $5.4 million from the town’s capital reserve fund.
About 4 million cubic yards of sand will be pumped by dredges from offshore borrow areas. Up to half the visible sand will slide into the nearshore to create a protective slope, according to coastal engineers. Work is being done at this time of the year to avoid risks and delays from unpredictable winter weather.
A survey shortly after Hurricane Matthew in October 2016 indicated that the shoreline had lost a third of the sand — 1.43 million cubic yards — from the original project.
Town officials asked FEMA to reimburse Nags Head for the cost of restoring the beach to the contour recorded in a June 2016 survey, when about 90 percent of the sand remained in the system.
FEMA considers the beach and nearshore out to a 19-foot depth.