A potential beach nourishment project for Avon took another step forward at the Feb. 18 Dare County Board of Commissioners (BOC) meeting, as the commissioners unanimously approved a motion to allow County Manager, Bobby Outten, to execute a final agreement with contractor Coastal Science and Engineering (CSE) for an upcoming feasibility study.
“At the last meeting, we selected CSE as our consultant for that project,” said Outten at the Feb. 18 session. “…It [came in] under the budgeted amount, and that’s a good thing.”
At a BOC meeting on November 4, the board first agreed to set aside up to $250,000 from the Beach Nourishment Fund to pay for a study to examine the details and costs of a future beach nourishment project in Avon. The initial allocation of funds for the Avon study corresponded with a similar request for study-related funds from the Town of Southern Shores, which is also considering a beach nourishment project in the near future.
The maximum estimated total of the project is $166,960, per the CSE proposal, which is well under the budget of the $250,000 allocated for the study.
The study will target the general Ocean View Drive area of Avon, which is a stretch of shoreline that has been subjected to regular ocean overwash during recent nor’easters and storms. When these storms occur, the overwash pours onto Ocean View Drive, and then flows onto N.C. Highway 12, inundating it with saltwater, and often cutting off access to the southern half of Hatteras Island.
At the Feb. 4 BOC meeting, the commissioners selected CSE as the contractor for the study, due to their familiarity with the area, and their recent and upcoming work on the Buxton Beach Nourishment project.
Per the proposal by CSE, the feasibility study would technically be “Phase I” of the potential four-phase beach nourishment project, and the study’s objectives include the following:
- Establish design objective, primary considerations, and constraints.
- Develop proposed plan sections.
- Identify proposed sand sources.
- Identify vulnerability to storm damage and long-term erosion.
- Identify anticipated monitoring, physical and biological investigations, and costs.
- Establish in detail NEPA/SEPA document and environmental permitting requirements.
- Assess the capital and maintenance costs for 15 years.
The proposed area to be surveyed includes four miles of beach centered in Avon, which includes up to 2,500 linear feet of National Park Service shoreline outside of Avon Village limits.
A full report with CSE’s results is expected within six months after the study begins, which is likely to occur in April / May when weather conditions are the most favorable. Per the proposal, the Phase 1 report is estimated to be complete and submitted by August 31, 2020.
In the proposal, CSE anticipates developing preliminary plans for the project with a design life of 5 years, 10 years, and 15 years, unless otherwise directed by Dare County officials.
In addition to covering the above-listed objectives, CSE will also review existing scientific reports and will try to determine the underlying causes of the accelerated erosion south of Avon Pier.
CSE stated in the proposal that they had already identified three possible causes of the accelerated erosion along Avon beach, which includes the following:
- A higher than normal incidence of damaging storms since Hurricane Matthew impacted the region in 2016, which has prevented the beach from rebuilding during fair-weather periods.
- Acceleration erosion associated with large-scale variations in beach width, which are related to variations and downcoast migration in an offshore sandbar.
- Short-term (years) cycles of accelerated sea level rise superimposed on longer-term (decadal) secular sea level rise.
Work related to the study includes offshore borings, borrow pit sediment and testing, beach sediment sampling, obtaining aerial imagery, and surveying the current condition of the beach, in addition to a long list of additional tasks.
Advocates hope that a beach nourishment project – or the process of pumping sand onto an eroding shoreline to widen the existing beach – could be a solution to the regular erosion and flooding of Ocean View Drive, and N.C. Highway 12.
The beach nourishment project that was recently completed in Buxton in February of 2018 deposited 2.6 million cubic yards of sand on a 2.9-mile stretch of Buxton shoreline, and a maintenance project at the site, which will be performed by CSE, is scheduled for 2021 / 2022.
The county provides funding for beach nourishment projects through the Beach Nourishment Fund. A portion of the 6% Dare County Occupancy Tax, (which derives from visitor accommodations), is set aside for the fund annually, and in addition, funds for beach nourishment are also provided by property and municipal service district taxes.