Avon beachgoers may see an unexpected vessel on the not-so-distant horizon this week, as Dare County’s engineering consultant, Coastal Science and Engineering (CSE), conducts a survey of the local coastline for a beach nourishment project feasibility study.
The vessel, formally known as the R/V Southern Echo, is slated to begin survey work mid-week, and the study’s specifications require that the vessel gets close to the shoreline, and in visible proximity of the Avon beach near Ocean View Drive.
The imminent survey for a potential beach nourishment project in Avon officially began in November of 2019, when the Dare County Board of Commissioners (BOC) 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. This 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 pursuing a beach nourishment project in the near future.
The Avon project took another step forward at the Feb. 18 BOC meeting, as the commissioners unanimously approved a motion to allow County Manager, Bobby Outten, to execute a final agreement with CSE for the 2020 feasibility study.
The maximum estimated total of the project is $166,960, per the February 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 is subject to regular ocean overwash during 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.
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’s town limits.
A full report with CSE’s results is expected within six months after the study begins. Per the February proposal, the Phase 1 report is estimated to be complete and submitted by August 31, 2020.
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 also 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 is derived 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.
The public can track the progress of the R/X Southern Echo as it focuses on the Avon shoreline and conducts its survey work via https://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/home/shipid:5981618/zoom:10.