February 12, 2016

Demand for dredges could delay
Buxton beach nourishment project


Beach nourishment along a 2-mile stretch of shoreline in Buxton may be delayed by an ongoing spike in demand for dredges, but Dare County won’t know until it has all the permits and can ask for project bids.  

Bids that were opened this week on planned beach nourishment projects in Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk and Duck came back with higher-than-expected costs and project delays, county manager Bobby Outten said at a Board of Commissioners retreat on Thursday.

“All three of these companies are so backed up, that they can’t do this in the time that was set up,” Outten told members of the Board of Commissioners. “But the real issue is the timing of it. They can’t start until September. And if they start in September and a storm takes out what they did, then we eat it.”

The board agreed to recommend that the project be re-bid, with a set start-date and end-date. In a conference call with Outten on Friday, the three towns consented.

The towns and the county are working together on hiring a contractor to widen a total of 10 miles of beach, starting with Duck. But contractors told the county, which would sign the contract, that because of high demand for dredges, the Duck portion could be done no sooner than the fall months, with the other two towns pushed back to summer 2017.

Outten said of three bids received, even the lowest was $4 million higher than expected. The county is helping to fund town projects out of its shoreline management fund, which is fed by a county-wide 2 percent occupancy tax and shared by municipalities.

“In the big picture, we’ve got a pretty big stake in those dollars,” he said.

An unintentional bonus of waiting until next summer is that more money will accrue in the nourishment fund, Outten said. But if the project is done in the fall, there it would be at a premium cost because of the increased storm risk.

Outten said that all parties will re-consult with contractors, and hopefully be able to go out to bid again in March.

Meanwhile, county commissioners have to decide soon whether the planned county nourishment project in Buxton should start in June, or wait a year.  Then there needs to be a consensus on creation of a tax service district to help pay for the project.

Reminding the board that the item is on Monday’s Board of Commissioners meeting agenda, Outten reviewed requirements to establish a tax district – including consideration of the property value and the economic feasibility – and its potential location, ranging from a minimum of the oceanfront only to a maximum of everything south of Buxton.

“There’s lot of options available, “ Outten said. “They’re kind of unlimited within that.”

Whatever the board decides about the district, he added, it needs to be able to justify it to taxpayers.

“There’s no right or wrong in this,” he said. “There’s no magic formula.”

Woodard said that the board should consider the options before discussion at Monday’s meeting.

But no matter what actions the board ultimately takes, there is still the wildcard of whether a contractor can meet the county’s timeline.  The county has obtained the state CAMA permit, and the federal permits are expected any time. At that point, the county can seek bids from contractors.

“With the results we’ve seen in Duck, Kitty Hawk and KDH, this makes me extremely nervous,” said board Chairman Bob Woodard.

In other business at the retreat, the Board:

  • Agreed to send a letter to U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-NC, thanking him for his help in securing an additional $3.2 million for dredging Oregon Inlet and an additional $1 million for dredging Hatteras Inlet.
  • Voted to send a resolution calling for the governor to help the county obtain federal funds for storm damage repair of  Highway 12 in Buxton.  “This last storm was just devastating, “ Woodard said.
  • Agreed to pay $5,900 to set up a static camera by early May in the activity room of the Fessenden Center in Buxton., so Hatteras islanders can comment at the Board of Commissioners' meetings.
  • Discussed inviting a representative of the state Department of Transportation to come to the monthly Oregon Inlet Task Force meetings to provide updates on the Bonner Bridge replacement project.
  • Decided to address the three-page list of concerns expressed by the public at recent town hall meetings in Manteo and Buxton by topic.  Each topic of concern would be answered in a general position statement. The board said there were too many concerns to address each individually.

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