Tucked away in the Feb. 5 Dare County Commissioners meeting—following the approval of $250,000 for a sand assessment study for Hatteras Island—was a comment from County Manager Bobby Outten about a grant that Barton Grover, Grants and Waterways Administrator for the county had just submitted.
“Barton is working on a grant application for the Rodanthe beach nourishment projects,” Outten told the commissioners. “If we get it, it’s a $40 million grant. It may allow us to do that [beach nourishment] project in Rodanthe.”
In an email, Grover indicated that he submitted the grant application on Feb. 5, also estimating that the approval process would take 12 to 18 months.
In Rodanthe, where oceanfront homes have collapsed and where the Cape Hatteras National Seashore (CHNS) recently purchased and demolished two oceanfront homes, the county has convened community meetings about the impacts of beach erosion, with beach nourishment emerging as a major topic.
The new grant application has been filed with FEMA under the name Rodanthe Storm Damage Mitigation Project. The total cost of the project, Grover says, is almost $42 million and shared between the Dare County and the federal government–with the federal government picking almost all of the cost.
“If awarded, Dare County would be required to provide a 10% match ($4,189,000). Total federal share would be $37,701,000,” he explained.
The grant is part of a new federal program signed into law in 2022. The Community Disaster Resilience Zones Act “requires FEMA to utilize a natural hazard risk assessment index to identify census tracts which are most at risk from the effects of natural hazards and climate change,” according to the FEMA website. Rodanthe, and all of Hatteras Island, is one of 483 Community Disaster Resilience Zones that have been identified. Rodanthe is considered one of the most endangered zones in North Carolina, assessed in the top one percent of at-risk areas.
If approved, this would be the largest nourishment project undertaken on Hatteras Island.
“The project would include the placement of 3.8 million cubic yards along 12,000 ft of beach. (For reference, the recently completed Avon project was an estimated 1 million cubic yards and Buxton was approximately 1.2 million cubic yards). From Mirlo Beach to the KOA campground,” Grover noted.
Because the beach on Hatteras Island is part of Cape Hatteras National Seashore from the low tide mark to the mean high-water line, the Rodanthe beach is part of the Seashore and for any nourishment project to move forward, the National Park Service will have to approve it.
That hurdle already seems to have been crossed. In 2021, a Sediment Management Framework Final Environmental Assessment for CHNS concluded that the preferred alternative for the Rodanthe and Hatteras Island was to actively work with local government on nourishment projects.
Even if approved, and there are potentially up to 483 other at risk areas vying for the grant funding, it will be some time before a nourishment project can begin at Rodanthe.
“There would be initial components of the project such as identifying sand sources and engineering that would need to be performed. Therefore, construction would likely not begin until 2027,” Grover wrote.
The county, Outten told the Voice, has been trying for some time to find a way to pay for beach nourishment in Rodanthe.
“Everybody’s been trying to find ways to fund the project, and this is an opportunity that came up and we’re taking advantage of it,” he said, while acknowledging that there will be completion for the FEMA grant money.
“Whether we get it or not remains to be seen, but it’s an opportunity at least and if it works, we’ll have the ability to do a project in Rodanthe and add that to our nourished beaches” Outten added. “It’s a good opportunity for us. We just hope we get it.”