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County Commissioners Approve Funding For Inlet Dredging

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CAROLINA BEACH - The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved funding $78,311.65 at their March 24th, meeting for maintenance dredging of the Carolina Beach Inlet later this year.
Earlier this month the Carolina Beach Town Council approved $13,758.85 to cover a portion of the costs with the understanding additional funding would come from New Hanover County and other municipalities.
According to Layton Bedsole, New Hanover County Shore Protection Manager, the Carolina Beach Inlet has historically been dredged quarterly, or more frequently if needed, by the US Army Corp of Engineers (USACE). The USACE 's systematic survey of the inlet's water depths provides the US Coast Guard the data needed to manage the inlet's navigation buoys. This inlet supports economic benefits to local businesses, commercial and for hire fisheries and the County's tourism industry. Bedsole explained, "The project was annually budgeted by the federal government until approximately 2005. In 2011, it became apparent that there would be no more earmark finding for the project. In 2012, the USACE used supplemental federal funds from Hurricane Irene to fund the dredging. Additionally, the County did not budget any funds in the current fiscal year, knowing the USACE was going to use supplemental federal funds from Hurricane Sandy until they were depleted."
He explained, "To date, the remaining federal funds from Hurricane Sandy and the balance of the remaining state and local funds were used to maintain Carolina Beach Inlet. As of 1 January 2014, the USACE had $150,000 of these combined funds. The remaining will be depleted with the maintenance dredging scheduled in March. Following the USACE's March maintenance dredging, there will be no maintenance dredging funds for the last quarter of fiscal year 2014."
Bedsole explained that maintenance dredging should be performed in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2014 to ensure continued proper inlet access. The USACE's inlet maintenance dredging is routinely a cycle of fourteen days with a potential daily removal of 3,000 cubic yards of sand. The USACE is requesting $206,900 for maintenance dredging in the April-June time frame. The costs would be split evenly between the County and the NC Division of Water Resources with each paying $103,450.
He explained that on March 6, 2014, the Ports, Waterway and Beach Commission (PWBC) moved for each municipality to request 4th quarter funding participation from their respective boards.
Earlier this month the three beach towns of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach approved funding their recommended portion of the Carolina Beach Inlet dredging.
Carolina Beach approved $13,758.85. Wrightsville approved $2,275.90 and Kure Beach approved $2,275.90.
The County anticipates the City of Wilmington will consider a vote on the request for their share of $6,827.70 at their April 2, meeting.
If approved by the City of Wilmington, the total contributed by the County and municipalities will be $103,450.00. The North Carolina Division of Water Resources will match that amount to provide the $206,900 required by the Corp of Engineers.
Bedsole said, "Depending on what the City [Wilmington] does, we may be back with an additional request."
County Commissioner Beth Dawson asked Bedsole about the future of state funding. He said he's confident state funding will be available in future years.
Commissioner Thomas Wolfe said, "This is going to be an ongoing problem with dredging that inlet" and, "We have three inlets feeding our intracoastal waterway in New Hanover County. Masonboro Inlet, the big inlet at Wrightsville Beach, we've got the Carolina Beach Inlet and Masons Inlet. If this were to fill up, in my opinion it would have a serious ecological impact on the waterway. If you look at the stretch of 15 or 20 miles, from a tidal standpoint. The tide goes in and the tide goes out. Keeping those estuaries... with one more inlet it gives us an opportunity to shall we say regenerate the water that is in there. I don't think people realize that one of the largest seafood industries that we have is crabbing. This is very instrumental in keeping those waters clean so they can reproduce. Then of course there is the economic benefit in keeping that inlet open for tourism, for fishermen, for pleasure. We know the federal government is going to be cutting back on those funds. The citizens need to be aware this is a county problem, Carolina Beach problem, Kure Beach, Wrightsville Beach, etc."
Wolfe made a motion to approve of the funding.
Commissioner Jonathan Barfield said, "As you know Layton the previous Board of Commissioners approved $160,000... a couple of years ago to help with inlet dredging of Carolina Beach. I know for me that is probably one of the most dangerous inlets in this region having gone out there before and almost lost my life. Fortunately I'm still here and I know its important to those" such as charter boat captains that would have to travel farther to access the ocean incurring additional costs.
Barfield said, "I know we will need to find a long term solution to this problem as we know the federal government is cutting back resources."
Chairman Woody White said, "All citizens of this county and region are benefited from healthy inlets that are maintained regularly. Not just from an economic standpoint, but from a quality of life standpoint and the moment we start neglecting these inlets we are going to regret it. So whether its funding sources higher up the food chain cut off or not, we are not going to have a choice, nor should we have a choice, but to maintain and do the best we can for these very important assets in the community."