70 attendees - which included National Park Service (NPS) personnel,
property management company representatives, and Buxton business owners
and homeowners – attended a public meeting on March 7 that outlined the
upcoming Buxton Beach nourishment project.
The project, which is slated to begin around June
1, 2017, will target a 2.9 mile stretch of shoreline from approximately
the Canadian Hole to the old site of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse – an
area that is regularly subjected to ocean over wash, and, subsequently,
NC Highway 12 flooding.
“The area north of Buxton was identified as a hot
spot by NCDOT a few years ago,” said Dare County Board of Commissioners
(BOC) Chairman Bob Woodard at the start of the meeting. “Our board got
an earful from our Hatteras Island citizens, and rightfully so… I don’t
have to tell you folks what that disruption meant to Hatteras Island -
health, safety… and most importantly, it affected the economy.”
The project began in 2013 / 2014 with a
feasibility study and scoping meetings, and was fast tracked with the
help of the BOC, NPS, and Coastal Science and Engineering (CSE) -a team
of scientists and engineers who specialize in solving problems in the
coastal zone, particularly beach restoration. “It was probably a
record,” said Cape Hatteras National Seashore Superintendent David
Hallac in regards to the speed of getting the Buxton beach nourishment
endeavor off the ground.
During the meeting, presentations were given by
Dr. Timothy W. Kana and Dr. Haiqing Liu Kaczkowski on the project
itself, as well as the steps that led to the upcoming June 1, 2017
The max length of the nourishment project is
15,500 ft., and the staging area will be the decommissioned Old Coast
Guard Base in Buxton. During the roughly 90-day process, 2.6 million
cubic yards of sand will be deposited on the shoreline from a borrow
pit that’s located 1.7 miles offshore – a site that was identified and
specifically chosen for its sand quality, and consistency with the rest
of the local shoreline. “We want you to look at the beach after it’s
built, and not feel like you’re on an artificial beach,” said Dr. Kana.
As the project continues, sand will be deposited
from the offshore dredge to the beach, and then shaped via a crew of
dozers. The end result will be a shoreline that initially appears
abnormally wide, but which will naturally change and adapt over time as
storms blow through the area, and the sand migrates from the ocean to
the dunes. After the 2011 beach nourishment project in Nags Head, a
heaping amount of sand made its way from the shoreline to the dune
buffer that separated the oceanfront homes from the beach.
“That’s a good problem to have,” said Dr. Kana.
“The sooner we have a nice big nor’easter after the project, the sooner
we’ll have that natural looking beach.”
Dr. Liu Kaczkowski outlined the construction
equipment that would be present on the beach – which includes a
shifting collection of pipes and dozers. The project will effectively
begin in the center of the targeted area slated for nourishment, and
will extend to the northern and southern ends from there. “Whenever
possible, the contractor will leave a corridor for access [for the
public], in areas where the beaches are wider,” she said.
The project will be conducted by Weeks Marine,
one of the largest providers of dredging services in the United States,
and East Coast Operations Manager Joe Mazzarella spoke at the public
meeting as well to explain the process in more detail, as well as
outline the history of the company.
Weeks Marine was the winning bid to perform the
beach nourishment project out of four bids for 2017. The 2017 bid from
Weeks Marine totaled $22.15 million as compared to the construction
budget of $22.96 million.
county had hoped that sand would be pumped on
the beach in 2016, but only two companies bid on the work for last
year, and both bids were over the budget by about $12 million - Weeks
Marine came in at $34.1 million for 2016, and Dutra Group came in
at $33.9 million.
“Last summer, we didn’t have any availability, which is why our  bid was so high,” explained Mazzarella at the meeting.
The final presentation was by Dare County Public
Information Officer Dorothy Hester and Dare County Media Specialist
Sara Small, who outlined how the county would respond to questions and
info for the general public on the progress of the projects slated
throughout the summer. In addition to the Buxton beach nourishment,
similar projects are scheduled to begin in the summer of 2017 in Duck,
Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills.
“There’s going to be a lot of people interested in this work, and we need to provide information,” said Hester.
In response, the county has created a campaign
called “More Beach to Love” which will include 10,000 brochures for
Hatteras Island businesses, and most importantly, a central website –
www.morebeachtolove.com – which will provide continual updates on the
status of the project. The site will feature interactive maps to see
what properties are affected, printable brochures, a sign-up for email
updates, and will serve as a comprehensive source for information on
After the series of presentations, the floor was
open to the public for questions, and meeting participants both thanked
the parties involved and inquired about project specifics.
Dawsons, owners of the Cape Hatteras Motel,
noted that they were already receiving questions on the project and
asked if there was a sense of how many days the work would be conducted
in a certain area. Dr. Kana noted that the crew completes about 250
feet of beach a day, with a total work area of about 1,000 feet. As a
result, people in front of the target area can expect roughly 5-6 days
of activity. “I would say that everyone is impacted, directly, for a
week,” he said.
Resident Mike McDaniel asked about how loud and
disruptive the project would be. “Most people are probably [most]
annoyed by the back-up beepers of the dozers, to be honest,” responded
Dr. Kana. “It’s dozers and beepers going off at night [that generates
Several residents and property owners asked about
sand dunes – and specifically if they would be physically created, and
how to make sure they were established (through vegetation, etc.) While
no physical dunes will be created, Dr. Kana noted that “Sand fencing is
the best bet to get dunes growing… and we will give the county guidance
on sand fencing.”
Though not included in the project budget right
now, County Commissioner Woodard added that covering the cost of the
sand fencing was something that the county would look into, noting that
the tens of thousands of dollars required for sand fencing, as compared
to the $22 million dollar project budget, was a relatively minor
expense. “It’s certainly within the realm of possibility - we did it in
Nags Head,” he said.
The meeting was recorded in its entirety and will be available soon for the public at http://www.darenc.com/departments/public-relations/beach-nourishment.
Updates on the Buxton beach nourishment project will be continually provided on the website www.morebeachtolove.com in the weeks and days leading up to the approximate June 1 starting date.