Carteret County, NC: County ready to pursue 2 nourishment projects

Carteret County officials hope to begin a beach nourishment project on Bogue Banks by mid-November for western Atlantic Beach, Pine Knoll Shores, the far western end of Emerald Isle and a portion of Salter Path left out of the last project completed this spring.

Greg Rudolph, manager of the Carteret County Shore Protection Office, said Monday he believes bids will go out to potential contractors in the middle of August and work should be finished no later than the end of April. The price tag could be as much as $30 million.

The cost of the last project, which included eastern Emerald Isle, Indian Beach and most of Salter Path, was about $21 million.

Phase one of the new project would be paid for – if bids are within range – with a combination of local funds, including town money, the county beach nourishment funds and state money.

If all goes as expected, the county would then tackle a second project, phase two, to include central Emerald Isle, roughly from the Ocean Drive dog leg to the Western Ocean Regional Access, next fall or winter. That would be bid separately to contractors next year.

Initially, the county hoped to bid the entire project as a base and an option, even though they might have been conducted over a two-year period.

But, Mr. Rudolph said, that optimistic plan was in large part predicated on the towns involved receiving Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to reimburse the costs of replacing sand lost during Hurricane Florence last September. That now appears very unlikely to happen before the bids go out in mid-August for phase one.

Mr. Rudolph said the county went back to the drawing board and decided not to bid phase two as an option. The county should have all the funds available for phase one in time to award a contract and have construction begin in November.

“We should have around $15 to maybe $16 million in the beach nourishment fund by then,” he said. That money comes from half of the occupancy tax revenue the county generates. The rest of the money – as much as half of the cost – will come from the state.

The state General Assembly, Mr. Rudolph said, last year set aside $18 million to help local governments with beach nourishment projects after Florence. Luckily for Carteret County, only one other local government, Oak Island, applied, and the town’s project is expected to cost $3-4 million. That leaves Carteret County with the rest.

“It’s official,” Mr. Rudolph said Monday. “It is ours.”

Initially, he added, the county hoped to get at least $3-5 million in state money. What this means, he said, is that if bids for phase one come in within budget and the FEMA money eventually arrives – the county has applied for $60 million in FEMA sand money – phase two can be funded entirely with FEMA and town money.

There’s not yet a firm estimate of the cost of that project.

“This should work out good for everybody,” Mr. Rudolph said of the timetable. “It (the whole project) was probably going to be split over two years even if we had bid it out as a base and an option, so separating it doesn’t really make any difference.”

What it does, he said, is enable the county to tackle the areas that need the sand the most as soon as possible. Pine Knoll Shores’ beaches haven’t been nourished in many years, nor have the beaches in western Atlantic Beach, although eastern Atlantic Beach has regularly receives free sand from the dredging projects at the State Port of Morehead City.

The portion of Salter Path left undone in the spring 2019 project, around the county’s beach access facility, also has not been nourished in a long time.

The spring project completed this year covered 5.2 miles of beach between the Indian Beach/Pine Knoll Shores town  boundary  and  the  access ramp on Ocean Drive in Emerald Isle and totaled 975,647 cubic yards of sand, deposited and useable in time for the summer and the next hurricane season. It also included reconstruction of damaged dunes and the planting of vegetation to help the keep the dunes in place to offer hurricane protection.

Mr. Rudolph called that a “nice accomplishment.”

The combined phase one and two projects should cover 15.6 miles of beach, adding up to as much as 2.9 million cubic yards of sand.

If all goes as envisioned, the estimates are: Pine Knoll Shores, 716,310 cubic yards; central Emerald Isle, 472,316 cubic yards; western Atlantic Beach, 428,970 cubic yards; western Emerald Isle, including the Bogue Inlet area, 927,280 cubic yards; and the Salter Path “hole,” 90,090 cubic yards.

Basically, Mr. Rudolph said Monday, when the new project is complete, everyone on the island should be able to say their beaches have been nourished within the past two calendar years.

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

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