Widening Hatteras beaches would cost as much as $57 million

By on November 4, 2013

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Sandbags on the beach at Buxton. (U.S. Geological Survey)

Depending on how long Dare County wants the sand to last, widening the beach on Hatteras Island is projected to cost a total of $37.4 million to $56.7 million, according to a new study.

But the two projects envisioned in Rodanthe and Buxton are unlikely to happen if the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are not willing to work with the county.

Dare wants to pump sand onto stretches of about 2.5 miles each in two severely eroded areas where storm surf washes over and sometimes takes out pieces of N.C. 12, decks, pools and even entire houses.

Coastal Science & Engineering, the same company that headed Nags Head’s 10-mile beach nourishment project two years ago, was hired to put together a feasibility study for the county.

Tim Kana, president of CS&E, told the Board of Commissioners Monday that a hot spot at Rodanthe had lost 800,000 cubic yards of sand and one at Buxton had lost 900,000 compared to adjacent stretches of shoreline.

CS&E’s report cited those amounts as the baselines for widening the beach. More sand than that would be added, and over time, wave action would bring the contour even with the shoreline to the north and south, Kana said.

map2In Rodanthe, a project that would hold up for five years would need 1.38 million cubic yards of sand at a cost of $17.5 million. A 10-year project would need 2.8 million cubic yards of sand and cost $30 million.

Setting up an offshore dredge and a system for pumping sand onto the beach, then taking down the operation, would account for $3.5 million of the cost in both scenarios, the report said.

Estimates for the Buxton project came to $19.85 million for a 5-year duration and 1.48 million cubic yards of sand. A 10-year project would need 2.26 million cubic yards at $26.7 million.

In response to questions from commissioners, Kana said that even if they were allowed by the state, offshore breakwaters would far exceed the cost of beach nourishment. He said, however, that groins, or jetties could help.

CS&I located areas of suitable sand 1.7 to 2.5 miles offshore in 35 to 45 feet of water.

Since the projects would affect areas overseen by Fish and Wildlife and the Park Service, the endorsement of the federal agencies is essential, said County Manager Bobby Outten.

“This is your feasibility study so we know whether we can afford it, whether it in fact can be done,” he said.

The next step is to begin to talk to the federal agencies as well as the state Department of Transportation before spending any more money, Outten said.

“If they’re going to say you can’t touch property that we own, then our decision sort of is made for us,” he said.

One factor in the overall cost could be the extent of emergency beach nourishment by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and NCDOT at Mirlo Beach just north of Rodanthe to protect N.C. 12, Outten said.

The county is looking at a budget of $25 million. Dare would borrow money for the project and pay it back from the county’s Shoreline Management Fund. Kitty Hawk, Duck and Kill Devil Hills have also been promised money from the fund.

If everything went smoothly, the county could start the projects in the summer of 2015, Kana said.

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