25 community members came to Cape Hatteras Secondary School last night
to hear Dare County and its consultants explain the planned beach
restoration project for Buxton and to ask questions.
meeting ended, it was clear that many residents are still not happy
that the completion date is at least two years away. And county
officials made it clear that they could not put sand on the beach
more quickly and still meet regulatory requirements.
before -- Monday, Aug. 18 -- the Dare County Board of Commissioners
voted unanimously to contract with Coastal Science & Engineering
(CSE) of Columbia, S.C., to manage the restoration project at a cost of
CSE was also hired by the county last year to
do a feasibility study on beach nourishment on Hatteras Island, which
included projects at Rodanthe and Buxton.
Since the N.C.
Department of Transportation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are
currently completing a nourishment project at the S-curves and northern
Rodanthe, the county is pursuing only the Buxton project at this time.
CSE feasibility report was presented to the board in November and
estimated the costs of the Buxton nourishment at $20 to $27 million,
depending on whether the project was designed for five or for 10 years.
to the contract, CSE will manage such elements of the project as
environmental permitting, condition surveys on the beach and the borrow
area from which the sand would come, cultural resource and geophysical
surveys, project design, bid coordination and liaison, construction
oversight, and post construction work.
For the audience last
night, the most important three pages in the 60-page CSE proposal for
Buxton set out the project's proposed timeline.
If all goes
exactly as planned, especially with obtaining all of the environmental
permits and a special use permit from the National Park Service, the
project would be completed in August 2016.
That would not be fast enough, said many of the folks at the meeting.
north Buxton area is eroding at a higher rate than just about any other
site on the island except the S-curves and north Rodanthe and has been
a problem for years.
An inlet was opened between Buxton and Avon
in the 1962 Ash Wednesday storm and the highway was ripped apart by
Hurricane Dennis in 1999. Today even minor northeasters can send
the ocean over the dunes and onto the highway. This summer many
tourists at the motels and rental cottages in the area are sitting on
top of sandbags at high tide when there is no beach.
importance to county officials is the protection of Highway 12, the
island's only travel corridor. Roadway closures are devastating
to the economy of the island and the county and to the lives of
There are also about 28 private properties on the
oceanfront in the area, according to the county, including three large
motels that have been there for decades.
Over the years, there have been three nourishment projects in the area -- in 1966, 1971, and 1973.
And another is desperately needed.
Judge, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, told the audience last
night that in 2012, the board decided that with or without the federal
or state governments, the county was going to forge ahead with
nourishment on Hatteras.
It won't be easy, Judge and county
manager Bobby Outten warned several times during the meeting. The
"big property owner" on the island is the federal government, and the
National Park Service owns the beaches.
After meetings with the
Park Service at both the local and regional levels, Judge said, "We now
have some confidence that if we meet all the regulatory requirements
and get all the permits, we will be allowed to put sand on the beach."
Tim Kana, project director with CSE, said the project must be done in
the summer for safety reasons. "Safety trumps all," he said. He added
that to even try to do the project in the stormy winter months would be
The earliest the permits can possibly be
secured for a summertime project is 2016, and delays, according to the
proposal, could push it into the summer of 2017.
have been aggressively pushing county, state, and federal officials
since Hurricane Irene in 2011 to address what is seen by many as an
"emergency" in north Buxton.
Last night at the meeting, in
addition to asking some pointed questions about the project, they
signaled their frustration with another wait of at least two
years. Some were more vocal than others.
who owns two properties in the area, said that she is only able to live
there about half the time. The backyards of the oceanfront
houses, she said, are now the "beach." Folks in the area need a
"rescue," she said.
"How much longer can we hold up with cut and
paste (solutions) out of our own pockets?" she asked, referring to
temporary measures such as bulldozing sand into dunes and piling up
"As homeowners, what can we do to move this along...to
speed it up?" asked another audience member. "This has been
dragging on forever."
Carol Dillon owns the Outer Banks Motel.
Now in her 80s, she has been beating back the encroaching Atlantic
Ocean for decades. She is not a person who minces her words.
"I am angry," she told the officials at last night's meeting.
"If somehow you people don't speed up this project, we're going to lose the road," she said. "We can't wait until 2016."
"If you are not going to speed it up, you better have a plan for (dealing with) the inlet," she warned.
Judge and Outten assured the property owners that they felt their pain,
but that the project was moving as quickly as possible.
Judge noted that the project has the unanimous support of the commissioners, six of whom were at the meeting.
"We have a really aggressive timetable," Judge added.
"It's going to be dark before the dawn," he said later. "We cannot go out there tomorrow and dump sand there."
don't want us to cut corners," Outten said, referring to an earlier
question about possible lawsuits to stop nourishment, which he said was
unlikely but would be possible if regulatory documents were not
"Everyone is doing as much as they can," he added.
not for a moment believe that this Board of Commissioners is not doing
all it can do," said Malcolm Fearing, a member of the state Board of
Transportation. "Rest assured that the state and the county board are
aware of the importance of this."
Allen Burrus warned of the
difficulties dealing with the federal government, which may lie
ahead. State and local officials, he said, have managed to work
with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on repairs to Highway 12 on Pea
"But the Park Service is a different ballgame," he said.
"We can beat it," he said, "but we are going to have to keep after it."
are some details of the project, as spelled out in the proposal and
discussed at the meeting by CSE's Kana, Judge, and Outten:
area of beach to be nourished will be approximately 2.3 to 2.7 miles
long from about 7,000 to 9,000 feet north of the first building along
Highway 12 in Buxton to the old lighthouse site.
The center section of that area is the narrowest.
Up to 60 percent of the project would take place on National Park Service lands.
five-year plan calls for pumping 1.475 million cubic yards of sand on
the beach. The 10-year plan would pump 2.260 million cubic yards.
consultants have located a nice area about 1 1/2 to 2 miles offshore
from which to pump the sand -- called the "borrow" area. The area
has compatible sand for the Buxton Beach, Kana said, and passed around
a plastic bag of it that had been obtained during feasibility studies.
CSE will manage the contracting of the dredging and will have an engineer on the beach at all times to oversee it.
all goes well, a draft environmental impact statement will be ready by
January and permit applications will be submitted in March. A final
environmental impact statement should be prepared by November or
December of next year.
There will be several opportunities for public comment.
The property owner will not own the nourished part of the beach and cannot build on it.
issue of who will own the nourished beach is a "conundrum" to be solved
later, Outten said. Both the state and the National Park Service
have an interest in ownership.
Whether or not there will be a
special tax district that requires property owners to shoulder part of
the cost for the project has not been discussed by the Board of
Commissioners. Outten said it would be under discussion at some
point, when the county has a better handle on the cost of the project.
The project is being paid for by a one-cent occupancy tax earmarked for beach restoration and levied last summer by the county.
The county is not expecting a legal challenge to the project.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Click here to read the CSE proposal for beach restoration in Buxton
Click here to see CSE's proposed timeline for the project.