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Beach nourishment decisions loom for Dare commissioners

In January 2021, Dare County Board of Commissioners must decide how to fund existing beach nourishment commitments and add two more projects.

County manager Robert L. Outten presented the dilemma at the board’s Dec. 21 meeting.

Outten reported that “Avon has been struggling with beach nourishment issues,” such as keeping ocean water off NC 12 and protecting oceanfront and oceanside houses, existing from Avon Pier south to Askins Creek North Drive. The distance is about 8,000 feet.

Big storms have rushed ocean water under oceanfront and oceanside homes along Ocean View Drive and flooded NC 12 with deep ocean saltwater. Such events severely limit travel on Hatteras Island.

Dare County commissioned an Avon feasibility study about beach nourishment. Coastal Science and Engineering delivered the report dated November 2020.

A middle-term solution providing about five years of protection and beach restoration would require a million cubic yards of sand along 11,500 feet of Avon shoreline. If the project stands by itself, the estimated cost is $14 million. If the Avon project can be bid with the Buxton maintenance project scheduled for 2022, the estimated cost is $11.3 million. Estimated costs are plus or minus 15%.

At the same time, the Town of Southern Shores is prepared to move forward with a 2022 beach nourishment project, estimated to cost $14 to $16 million. Other incorporated Dare municipalities are also scheduled for maintenance in 2022.

Dare’s Beach Nourishment Fund, funded with proceeds from a 2% occupancy tax, has about $8.5 million available, enough to cover the county share of the towns’ maintenance projects.

Enough funding exists to support either Southern Shores or Avon, not both.

Outten and Dare County finance director David Clawson figured out a way to cover about 50% of both projects. Dare County and its beach towns each received $1.4 million from North Carolina. The funds must be used for beach nourishment.

The financial solution is to reduce the amount of the county’s beach nourishment funds used for the town projects by $1.4 million. In January, Outten will visit with the towns’ elected decision makers and explain this part of the financial solution.

In past projects, Dare has funded around 50% of the town projects and is looking for 50% from Southern Shores and Avon.

For Avon, the proposal is to create a two-tiered service district, with property on the west side of NC 12 taxed at 10 cents per $100 valuation and the east side with the oceanfront and oceanside properties paying 40 cents per $100 valuation, just about equal to the $.4005 ad valorem tax rate now in place countywide.

“We know everybody is not going to like this,” said Outten.

Outten painted a grim financial picture. The Beach Nourishment Fund does not grow fast enough to generate enough revenue for the Avon project. He estimated it would take 25 years to accumulate enough funding.

As difficult as it may be with the coronavirus, the commissioners may hold some kind of meeting for Avon residents.

Danny Couch, Hatteras Island’s commissioner, said “the community is going to tell us what they want.”

The feasibility study identified an offshore sand deposit within state waters that “contains nearly identical sized sediments and would perform like the natural sand of Avon beach.” The study also looked at sand in the Avon harbor, which is too fine, and at the sand accumulated on the Hollowell property, which is fairly similar in size and could be trucked to the beach for small projects.

The feasibility study recommends that Dare County seek permits for all of the following:

– Emergency dune restoration for multiple events with maximum, cumulative volume up to 240,000 cubic yards.

– One-time beach nourishment with maximum volume up to at least one million cubic yards, the five-year proposal.

– Dune construction during beach nourishment.

– Sand fencing installation after nourishment.

-Dune vegetation planting after nourishment.

– Sand scraping in front of existing structures (houses, walkovers, pier foundation, etc.) after project completion if dune encroachment occur.

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