November 8, 2017
Buxton Beach Nourishment Project May
be Extended to Mid-February Deadline
By CATHERINE KOZAK
weather has repeatedly delayed the Buxton beach nourishment project,
and now the contractor is expected to ask Dare County for an extension
of their contract.
During a presentation at the Dare County Board of Commissioners meeting
on Monday, Haiqing Kaczkowski with Coastal Science and Engineering, the
firm overseeing the project for the county, told the board that
numerous storms made ocean conditions off the project area too
dangerous for the dredge to work for 50 days from late August into
“The average wave height is above the threshold” for the dredge to have operated safely, Kaczkowski said.
The original completion date of the $22.15 million project was Dec. 15,
she said, but because of weather challenges, the contractor is
proposing to extend the completion date to mid-February. Of the
total 2.6 million cubic yards of sand to be pumped on 2.9 miles of
shoreline, as of Nov. 6 about 1.2 million cubic yards – 46 percent -
have been placed.
With another storm headed to the Outer Banks on Monday, Weeks Marine
took the hopper dredge to Norfolk for repairs and refueling, and will
return when the weather improves. Before it left, the dredge was
working in the vicinity of Lighthouse View motel.
The company plans to replace the current dredge, the R.N. Weeks, with a
new hopper dredge, the Magdalen, in January. Kackowski said the
Magdalen has more than double the capacity of the older dredge.
“So we are moving forward to the finish line,” she said. “If Weeks can
continue at the same rate, we can reach it by mid-February.”
But Kaczkowski acknowledged that the larger dredge still has a shallow
draft and would be subject to similar wave height limitations. Plus,
winter storms can be just as problematic as summer’s tropical storms.
Wally Overman, board vice-chair, challenged the contractor’s
explanation for the number of missed work days. Kackowski explained
that there is a lack of historical data on wave heights at the project
borrow site – the offshore source of the pumped sand - and the
nearest place with data buoys is Diamond Shoals. According to
data from StormGeo, an advanced weather forecast company, there were
higher than average waves at Buxton from July to October.
“The point is that Weeks knew,” Overman said about wave heights off Cape Hatteras.
But Dare County Manager Bobby Outten interrupted, making it clear that
the county was not ready to discuss interpretation of the contractual
“I hate to get in a debate about what that means or doesn’t mean,” he responded.
The dredge contract includes a clause that allows for delays due to
“abnormal weather conditions” and other factors out of the contractor’s
control. Another provision calls for the contractor to pay $10,000 a
day in “liquidated damages” to the county for each day of delay.
Kaczkowski said that she anticipates that Weeks will soon approach the
county with a written proposal to extend the contract. If the parties
agree, the contractor would work whenever weather permitted, including
non-stop over holidays.
Forecasts so far from StormGeo for after the New Year are giving
Commissioner Danny Couch, who represents Hatteras Island, some reason
“I’m going to hold out that the prognosis for the winter will be good
for us,” he said. “I will stay positive that we will be able to keep
Commissioner Steve House asked why two dredges couldn’t work at the
same time to make up for lost time. But Outten said that when that
option was raised during the weekly construction meetings, it was
decided that it was not possible because of prior commitments for
“Short of taking a shoe and hitting it on the table, we’ve pressed them
as hard as we could on those questions,” he said. “There’s not a whole
lot we can do other than the screaming and kicking we’ve been doing all
“It’s beyond frustrating,” House responded.
In a later telephone interview, Outten said that as of Wednesday, the
county has not received any proposal from Weeks for a contract
extension, meaning that current provisions still apply.
“Until we hear from them, and until we talk,” he said, “I don’t want to
talk about what our legal position will or will not be.”
Outten said that during the weekly meetings with the contractor, it
became obvious that the project was behind, but they had continued to
say they would be able to “get it done.” But in the last couple
of weeks it became apparent that the completion date could not be met.
Still, Outten is confident that the project will be completed, one way or another.
“The only question is when is it going to be finished,” he said, “and
how are the provisions of the contract going to be applied?”