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Carolina Beach Gets 40-Year Beach Nourishment Funding Study

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - Federal funding for beach nourishment in Carolina Beach is set to expire in 2014. The Town Council received a report at their Tuesday February 12, meeting from Coastal Planning and Engineering of North Carolina (CP&E) offering scenarios and cost projections for funding nourishment projects over the next 40 years.
Tom Jarrett of CP&E said the first year Carolina Beach received an infusion of sand was 1964 and the 50 year project, "Has performed quite well and I think its proved the worth of this type of project in reducing storm damages" from hurricanes.
He said the upcoming project set to start next month may be the last federally funded project for the foreseeable future.
Jarrett said, "The Town requested that we do a study for them to project how much funding would be necessary to maintain this project for at least 40 years. In concert with this effort, New Hanover County has developed a contingency plan that falls along these same lines, looking at ways to keep these projects going if indeed the federal government does cease to fund these projects."
He said the Town received a Static Line Exception from the NC Coastal Resources Commission in 2009.
That exception was granted following changes to the State's coastal development setback rules in 2008. The changes increased setback distances for large-scale oceanfront structures. Under the previous rule, single-family structures on the oceanfront, regardless of size, had a setback of 30 times the long-term average annual erosion rate, with a minimum setback of 60 feet landward of the first line of stable and natural vegetation. In addition, multi-family (four units and greater) and commercial buildings greater than 5,000 square feet required a setback of 60 times the long-term average annual erosion rate, with a minimum setback of 120 feet.
Under the new rules, the new oceanfront setbacks are based on total square footage regardless of whether the structure is single-family, multi-family or commercial. In the new policy, the minimum setback factor remains 30 times the erosion rate for all structures less than 5,000 square feet, regardless of use.
The setback factor for all structures between 5,000 and 10,000 square feet is 60 times the erosion rate and increases incrementally with structure size, reaching a maximum setback at 90 times the erosion rate for structures 100,000 square feet and greater.
The static line rule changes develop separate management strategies for beaches that receive ongoing long-term, large-scale beach nourishment versus those that do not.
The static line represents the location of stable, natural vegetation at the time of beach fill construction and, when put in place, is used as the line from which oceanfront setbacks are measured.
The rule change would allow limited development on lots that cannot meet the setback from the static vegetation line if a community applies for a static line exception.
To continue to qualify for the exception, Carolina Beach must have a long-term (at least 25 years) beach fill program in place that includes identifying beach compatible sand and a financial plan to build and maintain the project for its design life. Exceptions are granted by the CRC for periods of five years, at which time a community must reapply.
Development under the exception must meet the applicable oceanfront setback from the first line of stable and natural vegetation, buildings can be no further ocean ward than the landward-most adjacent building, and total floor area is limited to 2,500 square feet.
Additionally, a static line exception establishes a maximum setback for all structures greater than 5,000 square feet at 60 times the erosion rate, similar to the previous less strict setback policy.
The first progress report for Carolina Beach is due to the Coastal Resources Commission by September 9, 2014 when the Town must demonstrate their ability to continue meeting the beach nourishment plan requirement.
The Carolina Beach federally funded project will stop in 2014. Federal reauthorization of the project could take years and New Hanover County is seeking special federal legislation that would allow continued federal involvement in the project for an interim period of 15 years until it is reauthorized.
Currently the Federal government pays 65% of beach nourishment projects every few years. The state and local governments fund the remaining 35% with state funding and local room occupancy tax revenues. For the projects starting next month, the federal share (65%) for Kure Beach is $3,047,165.10. For Carolina Beach it's $3,057,327.00. The Non-federal share paid for by the state and county room taxes (35%) is $1,588,384.90 for Kure Beach and $1,624,173.00 for Carolina Beach. Total Contract Cost for Carolina Beach is $4,681,500.00 and $4,635,550.00 for Kure Beach.
Jarrett said in light of the issues involved in securing continued federal funding, New Hanover County adopted a contingency plan that would allow continued nourishment of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach using non-federal funds. Under an interlocal agreement between the County and the three beach towns, if funding is not provided by the Federal Government, all three beach towns agreed
to provide 17.5% of the funds needed for periodic nourishment of their beaches. The remaining balance of 82.5% would be covered by New Hanover County and possibly the State of North Carolina.
In the absence of state funding, the entire 82.5% balance would be assumed by the County.
The County would use Room Occupancy Tax revenues realized from a tax on hotels, motels and short-term vacation rentals.
Jarrett said in the worst case scenario with the absence of both federal and state funding, and the County paying 82.5% of the cost for such projects would require the Town to put away around $550,000 per year to cover an estimated $22 million dollars required over a 40 year period. That's one and half to two million dollars every three years.
He said there is no guarantee the County's room tax funds will sustain that option. 
The Council will soon begin planning for the 2013-2014 fiscal year budget and the question of how to raise revenues to fund future projects will be a major topic of discussion.
Previously the Council has been advised of various options including raising the property tax rate overall or in districts depending upon distance from the oceanfront.
The Town Council is working to lobby state and federal elected leaders to secure future funding.