(This article corrects one that was published on Friday and that said the NPS has issued a special use permit.)
The National Park Service on Friday announced that Stan Austin, director of the Southeast Region of the National Park Service, has signed an environmental document that gets Dare County one step closer to getting a special use permit to nourish beaches in north Buxton within the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Dare County has asked the Park Service for the permit to pump sand onto 2.9 miles of beach in the area to protect Highway 12 from the encroaching Atlantic Ocean.
An Environmental Assessment (EA) that analyzed two action alternatives was released for public comment in September 2015. On Friday, Austin signed a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), which clears the way to issue the permit.
The FONSI comes after preparing the EA in collaboration with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The chosen alternative will allow placing sand during the summer — hopefully this summer — and also inclu
des numerous mitigation measures to avoid and minimize impacts to natural resources.
Mitigation measures and other required conditions associated with NPS consultation with other state and federal agencies, will be detailed in the special use permit.
Copies of the EA and the FONSI can be found on the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/documentsList.cfm?projectID=55120.
At a Board of Commissioners meeting on Monday, Feb. 15, Dr. Tim Kana, of Coastal Science and Engineering, the company the commissioners hired to plan the project and get it permitted, gave the board an update on the project.
The plan is to nourish the beach between the Haulover area north of Buxton and the old site of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse with 2.6 million cubic yards of sand that would be pumped from a borrow pit about 1.8 miles offshore from the old site of the lighthouse.
Kana said Monday that the project is still on schedule for pumping sand in late spring or early summer.
He said that the special use permit was expected to be issued soon. After it has the Park Service’s permit, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can issue its permit — the last one needed. That is expected to happen in March or early April.
After that, the schedule gets really ambitious. Assuming all permits are received, projects would be put out for bids in early April with bids due April 28. The commissioners would be scheduled to approve the contract at its May 2 meeting with a construction agreement and other documents also finished in May, so sand can be pumped by Sept. 2016.
The project cannot be done after September for reasons of safety and economy. During the stormy season, the dredging days would be limited by weather and the project would take twice as long and cost much more, Kana said.
Kana made reference to the fact that when bids were opened on Tuesday, Feb.9, for three projects on the northern beaches, all were considerably over budget and none could be done in the summer months because of the high demand for dredges. Those three projects are going to be put out for bid again soon.
Kana offered hope that the Buxton project would be small enough for some dredge company to “fit it in” among its other summer projects or that the combination of the three town projects plus Buxton would be large enough to get the attention of a company that would be willing to do it in the summer.
“I know there will be a lot of people disappointed if we can’t do it this summer,” Kana said, “but as you found out last Tuesday when bids were opened…it may be beyond our control.”