Weeks Dredging Company last dredging the channels and inlets surrounding Topsail Beach for nourishment in 2020. (Courtesy Town of Topsail Beach)

NC - More dredging needed for Topsail inlets, price could increase by

TOPSAIL BEACH — A coastal Pender County town may have to pay more for this year’s dredging after survey work revealed many areas in the channel have more shallow depths than anticipated.

READ MORE: Topsail dredging project prevents beach access for vehicles, horses in upcoming season

Topsail Beach is gearing up for its winter dredging to excavate between 1.6 million and 1.9 million cubic yards of sand from the inlet channels to add to the 4.5-mile beachfront.

Based on the town’s 30-year beach management plan, nourishment is expected roughly every five years, except in cases of major erosion and significant sand loss due to major storm events or shoaling.

The town completed its first nourishment project with 1 million cubic yards of sand in 2011. Last time Topsail’s shoreline received nourishment was in 2020; the town entered into a $24.6 million contract with Weeks Dredging Company for 2.2 million cubic yards. The project was covered from federal and state funds.

A recent review of the inlet depths showed closer to 1.9 cubic yards is needed in 2023. As a result of the increase from 1.6 million cubic yards, it is anticipated to cost $3.5 million more than originally agreed upon. The town signed a contract with Norfolk Dredging Company for $22 million in October, but the project could now come closer to $25.5 million, according to engineering company TI Coastal.

“We’re asking the town be prepared for that — instead of reducing the size of the project, which we’d have to reduce the width of the channels — we go ahead and do the full project,” TI Coastal president Chris Gibson told commissioners Wednesday.

Norfolk Dredging, in conjunction with TI Coastal, found there was 350,000 yards more of shoaling — the act of creating shallower depths — than the firms had anticipated. It increased the need for more sand to be dredged.

The material will be taken from the New Topsail Inlet and channels within Topsail Sound, returning their depths to 18 feet. The excavated sand will be spread uniformly along 23,600 feet of shoreline, Gibson said, adding 10 feet of width from one end of the beach to another.

Erosion is worse in the south end of the island, an area known as The Point, than it is farther north. Therefore, crews will add 160 feet of beach width south of the Jolly Roger Fishing Pier and 140 feet north of the pier up to the Surf City boundary.

The dunes were recently rebuilt in 2020 and won’t be impacted by this year’s dredging. Berms will be reconstructed to 5-feet, which is the natural elevation. A slight slope allows any potential future storm energy to dissipate as waves run onto the beach.

Assistant town manager Christina Burke confirmed to Port City Daily the extra $3.5 million is at the maximum end of additional funds needed.

“We will not know the total cost until the end of the project,” she said, depending on how much sand is actually pulled and laid down.

Topsail Beach pays for its beach renourishment from three different sources: the town’s beach inlet sound fund, state money from the shallow draft inlet fund and FEMA.

If the amount of sand is maxed out at 1.95 million cubic yards, the town could owe $1.8 million, which Burke said would come from the state shallow draft inlet fund or the town’s BIS fund.

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