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County To Start Annual Oceanfront Shoreline Survey

Managing Editor

NEW HANOVER CTY - The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners approved a plan to solicit engineering firms to conduct an annual shoreline and inlet survey to keep track of erosion.
According to Layton Bedsole - County Shore Protection Coordinator -, "This is a project that will track trends along our shorelines that would indicate erosional hot spots" and other aspects to determine the rate at which sand  is moving and why it moves in a particular direction.
Bedsole explained the Town's of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach have existing Project Cooperation Agreements with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) for coastal storm damage reduction (CSDR) projects - commonly called beach nourishment - in which annual shoreline surveys and post-storm surveys are non-federal responsibilities.
He explained that county staff is recommending a countywide annual oceanfront shoreline and inlet shoulder surveying, mapping and evaluation program to monitor the federally authorized CSDR projects. The mapping area includes beaches along Wrightsville Beach, Masonboro Inlet, Masonboro Island, Carolina Beach Inlet, Freeman Park, Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Fort Fisher State Park south to the County's southern boundary.
The survey data would be used to collect and track shoreline trends within the shoreline "sand transport process."
Each profiles' data set must be reproducible and repeatable supporting third party evaluations such as a Federal Emergency Management (FEMA) assessment of an engineered beach's losses in the event of a federally declared storm event or hurricane.
Bedsole explained the Ports, Waterway and Beach Commission endorsed releasing a request for qualifications (RFQ) encompassing annual shoreline transect surveys complying with USACE standards. The Commission recommended that the annual cost for the survey activities be paid from the room occupancy tax (ROT) fund at an estimated cost of $100,000 to $125,000. The ROT fund is fueled by a tax levied on hotels, motels and short-term vacation accommodations.
Bedsole explained, "It implements a holistic approach" to keep track of how sand moves from one area to another and keeping tabs on erosion.
He said Carolina Beach's federal authorization expires October 1st, 2014, and to make use of an engineered beach in 2016 for future nourishment projects, the surveys will be required.
The Board of Commissioners unanimously approved of the request.
It's a federal requirement to monitor beaches particularly following storms but has always been done by local government officials basically conducting photo surveys and general calculations of erosion.
The annual survey proposal would record more accurate and dependable data that could help municipalities secure additional funding support from the federal government following storm events.
Carolina Beach and Kure Beach just received an infusion of sand along the beachfront in the spring of this year.
The beach nourishment project in Carolina Beach was completed in June. The $4.6 million dollar shore protection project pumped over 900,000 cubic yards of sand from the northern end of the beach at Freeman Park south to an area near the downtown Boardwalk.
Local, state and federal leaders continue to focus on funding future projects. Even though leaders have to lobby Washington every couple of years for funding, the Town's 50 year Congressionally approve project cooperation agreement is set to expire in 2014.
Currently 65 percent is paid by the federal government with the remaining 35 percent funded by state and local governments.
In New Hanover County, a portion of the room occupancy tax on hotel, motel and short-term vacation rentals goes towards funding nourishment projects.
In light of the issues involved in securing continued federal funding, New Hanover County adopted a contingency plan last year 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 in the future, 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.
A consultant informed the Town Council earlier this year that 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.
In the proposed 2013-2014 Carolina Beach budget, $350,000 of anticipated revenues from Freeman Park vehicle passes of around $1.2 million is designated towards beach nourishment funding. Yet that leaves a shortfall to reach the $550,000 estimated each year towards future projects.