January 8, 2015

NPS proceeding with environmental
study on Buxton beach nourishment


By IRENE NOLAN


The National Park Service has issued a notice of intent to prepare a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on Dare County's plan to nourish the beach in north Buxton.

The notice, which was filed in the Federal Register on Dec. 29, begins the public scoping process for the Environmental Impact Statement that is required by the Park Service before it issues a special use permit to the county to pump sand on the eroding beaches in the area.

Meetings to get input from the public on the county's plan and the EIS are tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 27, in Manteo and Wednesday, Jan. 28 in Buxton.  A public comment period will also begin soon during which comments will be accepted in writing.
More details on the meetings and submitting public comment will be available soon.

Dare County plans to nourish 2.3 to 2.7 miles of beach in front of the motels and other private property in north Buxton in order to protect Highway 12, which is frequently overwashed in even minor storms.

In August, the 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 $1.68 million. Under consideration are design plans for both five- and 10-year projects at an estimated to cost between $20 and $27 million.

CSE has proposed an ambitious timeline that would have sand being pumped onto the beach from an offshore borrow area in the summer of 2016.

Most of the project will take place on land owned by the Park Service, which is why the county will need a special use permit from NPS to proceed.

According to the Park Service's notice of intent, the EIS will assist the NPS in determining whether, where, and under what conditions the agency would issue the permit.

Although the Park Service generally opposes beach nourishment to address erosion, it has said that it will consider the project proposed for north Buxton to help protect the highway and keep it open.

According to county manager Bobby Outten, CSE is already working on writing both the EIS and an Environmental Assessment (EA), which is required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. CSE, he said, is working with the Park Service and the Corps as it prepares both documents.

Authorization and permits from other state and federal agencies will also be required, and Outten said the county is meeting regularly with all of them to keep the project moving along.

One of those meetings was today in Washington, N.C.

Dare Commissioner Warren Judge, one of the county officials who attended and gave an overview of the plans, said he remains "encouraged" that the project is moving forward in a timely manner.

"I am encouraged that no one there stood up and waved a big 'stop' sign," he said.  "The comments were mostly positive."

After the public meetings later this month and the end of the comment period, all comments will be addressed and a final EIS prepared. It will also be submitted for public comment before it is final.



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