June 7, 2013
Beach nourishment at S-curves not
likely until late summer or early fall
BY CATHERINE KOZAK
project to widen the beach to protect Highway 12 on the north end of
Rodanthe will not be ready for construction for months, despite some
public perception that it would be completed before hurricane season.
was misinformation that we were going to be pumping this spring,” said
Bob Keistler, project manager for the U.S. Corps of Engineers. “We’re
working with all the resource agencies. It’s going to be more like a
late summer/early fall placement.”
Meanwhile, the state
Department of Transportation will be keeping a close eye on the
vulnerable area of road between S-curves at the south end of Pea Island
and the Rodanthe pier.
“We will do the best we can to clear the
sand and water off the road if we do have overwash,” said NCDOT
division engineer Jerry Jennings. “There’s really nothing else we can
do. We do have that significant sandbag system that was put in place to
protect the highway.”
Engineers are providing bi-weekly updates to state leadership in several departments, he said.
March 19, Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency for the
Rodanthe area and ordered all state and local government agencies to
cooperate in implementing short- and long-term measures to protect the
road. A similar federal declaration was issued on April 8.
islanders said that statements sent out after a meeting in Manteo with
the governor and the Transportation Secretary led them to believe that
the work would be done before June 1.
“To begin this process
after the hurricane season is well under way is pathetic to say the
least,” said Jett Ferebee, owner of Camp Hatteras, in an e-mail to
Jennings. “One marginal storm will destroy all of your
work. This then opens us all up to the criticism that we are
wasting money rebuilding this road.
“We truly are wasting money if we are not going to protect the road.”
The nourishment is intended as a temporary measure until the long-term Highway 12 alternative in Rodanthe is completed.
Smyre, DOT project engineer for the Bonner Bridge replacement project,
said that three public hearings planned for input on the Environmental
Assessment detailing two proposed long-term alternatives at the
Rodanthe breach have been moved back to August, when the document is
expected to be released. The department, she said, has had to turn more
of its focus on the Pea Island bridge that will be constructed to
replace the temporary bridge now in place.
Despite the fact
that the Pea Island Inlet is currently dry beach under the bridge, she
said that the project is still considered necessary because of the
vulnerability at that hot spot.
“It’s an area that has obviously been breached before,” she said. “If it happens there again, we’ve already covered it.”
bridge contract is expected to be awarded in July, when DOT will apply
for necessary contracts. Barring any delays from weather or legal
challenges, Smyre said, construction will start in the fall and be
completed in 2 to 2.5 years.
The Army Corps and the DOT have
an agreement for the Corps to design and construct a beach-widening
project at S-curves that would last three years. The 60- to 90-day
project would be about two miles long. The proposed width has not been
Keistler said that contractors are in the process
of surveying the beach profile and the offshore bar area to identify
the amount and type of sand available.
“The question we have,”
he said, “is we have to have a borrow source that has enough sand and
the right quality and quantity of sand.”
Three areas are
being targeted for the approximate 2 million cubic yards of sand that
will be needed, he said. Two are at or near Wimble Shoals, located
between 2 miles and 3.5 miles offshore. Area A is about 1 mile by 2
miles in size. Area B is about ½ mile by 2 miles in size.
other potential borrow site is Oregon Inlet, which would necessitate
pumping the material through 12 to 15 miles of pipeline, which – in an
effort to avoid impacts to the beach and protected species - would
likely run along the highway in the right of way.
locations have their pluses and minuses, Keistler said. Wimble Shoals
sand, analyzed years ago by the U.S. Geological Survey, could be
suitable, although some of the data is 20 years old. There is also the
concern that offshore cultural or historic resources could be affected.
“It’s the Graveyard of the Atlantic, so the chances of finding something are pretty good,” he said.
Inlet, as the Corps knows all too well, has plenty of sand, and it is
would be good match in quality. The stickler is cost and engineering
“The further you pump,” Keistler said, “the more expensive it is.”
and pumping sand 15 miles down the road is conceivable, Keistler said,
yet it’s beyond the distance contractors usually deal with in such
projects. The department is about to put out an industry inquiry to
gauge the feasibility, he said.
But another advantage, he
said, is that because the Corps already has so much data about the
sand, the Oregon Inlet option would allow pumping to begin as soon as
“If we have to get a permit to go offshore,” he said, “we have a lot more boxes to check.”
state Coastal Area Management Act permit for the project has been
obtained, according to NCDOT. The department has also applied for a
special use permit from the National Park Service and from the U.S Fish
and Wildlife Service and is awaiting final approval.
sand sample surveys are completed, the DOT will apply for permits from
the state Division of Water Quality. When the environmental assessment
is completed, the document will be sent to the Federal Highways
Administration for approval. At that point, the Corps will be able to
issue its final permit, which would be followed by artifact data
submitted by the state Department of Cultural Resources. Then a
contractor can be hired and the project construction can begin.
According to Corps estimates, about 1.7 million cubic yards of sand –equal to 170,000 dump truck loads – will be needed.
The DOT is expected to decide on the sand source for the project by mid-month.