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Carolina Beach Gets Update On Required Rockwall Maintenance

Weather and an astronomical high tide caused rough surf conditions and over wash on the north end of Carolina Beach last week. The Carolina Beach Town Council was updated on an upcoming beach nourishment project and a requirement by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to maintain a decades old rock wall along the oceanfront on Carolina Beach Avenue North. The State no longer permits rock walls on the beach but may allow "maintenance."

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - Carolina Beach and Kure Beach will soon get an infusion of sand to renourish their beachfronts. For Carolina Beach, there's a new aspect to the project. The Army Corp of Engineers informed the Town earlier this year they must maintain a decades old rock wall along the beachfront on Carolina Beach Avenue North. The Town Council is concerned with how much it will cost and if the state will permit that maintenance.
The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers informed local governments earlier this month that bids were opened and they have an apparent low bidder to conduct a beach nourishment project this winter on Pleasure Island. Robert Keistler with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Wilmington District explained November 2, they, "had a successful bid opening yesterday on the above referenced solicitation package.  Weeks Marine Inc, of Covington La. is the apparent low bidder with a bid of $26,256,300.00."
The project will pump 680,000 cubic yards of sand on to Carolina Beach likely from the North End Pier south to the Carolina Beach Lake. It will also pump 432,000 cubic yards on to Kure Beach from the southern beach in Carolina Beach to an area north of the Kure Beach Pier. A final section is south of that pier. The project also includes "Wilmington Harbor Inner Ocean Bar Dredging with Beach Disposal at Bald Head Island" pumping 1,830,000 cubic yards of sand.
The Town of Carolina Beach may have to start banking away as much as $650,000 a year in order to fund periodic beach nourishment projects. How to generate that revenue is the expensive question.
At the Council's November 20, meeting Layton Bedsole, Shore Protection Coordinator for New Hanover County, explained for the beach nourishment project, "The bid tabulation has not been finalized. Week's Marine is the apparent low bidder. I'm anticipating that contract award to occur first of next week. In terms of funding I feel comfortable that what has been approved for expenditures by the County Commissioners will cover our needs." He said, "Other good news, the inlet dredging. Last year when we put together our funds as a community, post Irene funds were made available and they were spent, our funds were not. We are back in that same situation this year."
Last year Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Wrightsville Beach, City of Wilmington and the County all agreed to allocate funds for dredging of the Carolina Beach Inlet to keep it open for recreational and commercial vessels. Bedsole said those funds have not been transferred to the County yet, but they are asking those local governments to deliver those funds.
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth questioned if federal funds will become available due to Hurricane Sandy.
Bedsole said the Army Corp of Engineers provided a list of potential projects but, "There is no guarantee we will get a dime."
He said, "It would be nice to know and wait to spend Sandy dollars if we got them, I don't know that we have that luxury."
Bedsole said there will be two dredging events in the inlet. One this winter and another in the spring to prepare for the busy summer season.
As for the rock wall on the north end, Bedsole said he recently met with state officials and felt good about the outcome. He explained, "The structure is 30 or 40 years old. The fact that, by fault of no one, has not been maintained on a regular basis... there's some low spots so to speak. Our goal was to get [permission] to do some refurbishment to regain some of the functionality under a maintenance authorization in lieu of a permit" from the State Division of Coastal Management.
Bedsole said, "What we came up with is what I thought was a good compromise. We won't be able to put it back to designed parameters, but the agencies are willing to allow us... with surveys to determine high points and low points... the distance between those high points and then a fill elevation in those low points to regain some of that functionality."
Shuttleworth said he's frustrated with the state because the rocks were originally designed at one level and the state is now saying the Town can't return them to their original designed level. He said, "But we sat through a two day seminar and the guy said build wider beaches farther from the beach and put in your shore protection and this is our shore protection.  So the left hand won't let the right hand do what they just told us we should be doing."
Bedsole said, "There's a caveat. The caveat is, the structure that we are discussing could never be permitted in North Carolina today because it's a hardened structure" and the state banned such structures along the beach some years ago.
Shuttleworth said now the question is how to pay for maintenance the state will permit them to do on the wall.
He said, "We need as a council to understand how we are going to pay" for the rock wall and the Town believes it should be paid from out of the County Room Occupancy Tax fund that currently funds beach nourishment projects. That fund is fueled by taxes levied on hotels, motels and short-term vacation accommodations.
Bedsole said the Town needs to survey the wall, calculate how much rock they will need to put in the low points of the wall and the cost.
Shuttleworth said it's his understanding the maintenance on the wall should take place during the beach nourishment project and not afterwards.
Bedsole said putting together a plan with a scope of work is the next information to take to the state for permission. 
The United States Congress has authorized a beach nourishment project for the Town of Carolina Beach. It is estimated that this project will cost approximately $7,700,000. Congress has authorized the Federal Government to spend $4,400,000 on this project. The balance of $3,300,000 will be shared between the State of North Carolina and New Hanover County. New Hanover County's portion will be approximately $2,120,000 and will be paid from the Room Occupancy Tax (ROT) funds and the State of North Carolina's share will be $1,180,000. The existing permit for this project expires in 2014.
The Federal government has authorized a beach nourishment project for the Town of Kure Beach; however, no funding is being provided from either the Federal or state governments. Therefore, the entire cost of this project would come from local funds.
The Town of Carolina Breach has agreed to transfer the state's portion of the Carolina Beach nourishment of $1,180,000 to Kure Beach if the nourishment project at Kure Beach proceeds. The estimated cost of this project is $6,400,000 and would also be funded by room occupancy tax revenues.
Part of the Carolina Beach portion of the project is done under the Kure Beach project.
The Council voted earlier this year to contact state legislators about proposing legislation that would permit the Town to adopt a sales tax to help fund future beach nourishment projects. That mechanism would be combined with other revenue sources.
The Council recently eliminated discounts on Freeman Park vehicle passes to generate anticipated revenues of $400,000 a year for future nourishment projects.