- Published on Wednesday, 22 January 2014 14:29
- Written by Super User
Photo: U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.
By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Town Council approved funding for an economic impact study of the Carolina Beach Inlet at their January 14th, meeting. The Council voted unanimously to approve $1,700.00 towards a study proposed by the Carolina Beach Inlet Association.
Robert Schoonmaker - President of the Inlet Association - said the group is a non-profit organization with a goal to educate the public on the importance of dredging and maintaining all North Carolina Shallow Draft Inlets.
He said Carolina Beach Inlet is one of many shallow inlets in North Carolina and, "We've lost federal funding to keep our inlets open and we've been working real hard with the State of North Carolina and our local municipalities in order to keep these inlets open. We've received some emergency funding over the last couple of years and now through some hard work at the state level, the state has secured their portion of the funding. Now we are working at the local level so we can secure the local level of the funding. The way it’s going to work is it’s a 50-50 cost share basis. So 50% of the funding to keep these inlets open is from the state and the other 50% is going to be from New Hanover County and the municipalities within the county."
Without funding the inlet would fill with sand and no longer be navigable for commercial vessels and recreational boaters.
He explained, "I'm standing in front of the Town Council and citizens of Carolina Beach asking for help in funding an economic impact study for Carolina Beach Inlet. The study will be performed by coastal economist Chris Dumas at UNCW. We've used his material over the past two years to secure the funding at the state level and we hope to use the information from this study that we are asking for the funding to convince New Hanover County and local municipalities on the importance of funding shallow draft inlet" dredging. He said, "This study will give us the data we need to convince" local elected officials, "on the importance it has on the economy locally."
Schoonmaker said the Association was asking the Town for $1,700.00 to fund the study. The Pleasure Island Chamber of Commerce has already donated $5,000.00 for the study. He explained officials with the Town of Kure Beach, "Have also pledged to also donate $1,000.00."
Schoonmaker said the study should be done by March 17th in order to get funding for inlet dredging prior to the upcoming season. He said, "Hopefully we can come to a long term resolution for this with just one study but if not we will be looking at a year long study that is more comprehensive. We would have in the field surveyors throughout the County. Then the second study would be more in depth and actually track the money coming in through the shallow draft inlets and waterways and how it flows through each Town as well as the County and that might help if we need to convince the municipalities and the County on exactly what percentage they need to participate in funding the Carolina Beach Inlet."
He explained, "I'm hopeful we can get it done with this first study but if not we will be working hard on getting the second study done and getting this resolved as quickly as possible."
Mayor Dan Wilcox explained the Association has worked hard over the years to lobby for funding to maintain the inlet.
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth said, "We certainly appreciate all the Association has done to help secure state funding. That part of the equation has been solved. Now we are working on the second half which is how to get the matching 50% required and when it’s a local match that comes from New Hanover County. We are anticipating somewhere around $250,000 to $350,000 a year that we have to come up with. The question is how much does the county contribute, how much does Kure Beach contribute, Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach and Wilmington, and we've had some lively discussions at the Ports Waterway and Beach Commission on who should pay what."
Shuttleworth said, "So the Chamber of Commerce has stepped up to underwrite the lion's share of this first survey. We did ask the Ports and Waterway to be prepared to help fund the second one which is more of a long term, year round, specific study. As Robert said, what we are going to do is gather the information they have currently in hand and package it for this first year so we can get back to all the municipalities and ask them to contribute something this year."
Councilman Gary Doetsch said, "I think some of the other municipalities have felt like this is our inlet and we are trying to convince them that it's the county's inlet really."
Council member Sarah Friede said, "The truth is it's not just people in Carolina Beach using the inlet, it's people from all over the state."
Mayor Wilcox said the return on investment is $16 for every one dollar spent to maintain the inlet.
Schoonmaker said, "We know it benefits the community but the only way anybody will listen to us is when we tell them these are the tax dollars you stand to lose if you don't invest in this infrastructure."
Schoonmaker said Tuesday December 10, there is no federal funding for Shallow Draft Inlet Dredging in the 2013 federal budget. The State along with coastal towns and counties, have come up with Emergency Dredging Funds for 2013. After 2013 there was no funding available from the Federal or State Governments. He explained the mission is to "Secure a sustainable funding avenue at the state and local level so the US Army Corp of Engineers can maintain the shallow draft inlets."
At this moment Carolina Beach Inlet is only receiving $450,000 in Emergency Dredging funds, Less than half its original budget. Counties with Shallow Draft Inlets will have to match the state of North Carolina on a 50/50 cost share for Maintenance Dredging. In order to maintain Carolina Beach Inlet that means the local share will be $500,000 dollars.