Duck shoreline and road work project completed

Published 2:45 pm Tuesday, May 28, 2024

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An official dedication and ribbon cutting for Duck’s Living Shoreline Resiliency Project took place last Wednesday afternoon a few feet from the actual project area.

Speaking to a small crowd gathered on the former Resort Realty property, Duck Mayor Don Kingston reminded listeners that while NC-12 serves as a vital north-south artery, it has often been vulnerable to flooding from both heavy rains and sound overwash.

As the only link north to the Currituck County Outer Banks, when NC12 suffers from significant flooding to the point to where the road is deemed impassable, residents in Corolla and Carova, as well as any northern Duck residents, are cut off from the rest of the world.

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“This not only threatened safe travel and emergency response,” advised Kingston, “but it also highlighted the challenges we face from storm events. The Living Shoreline and Resiliency Project addressed these concerns head-on. By raising the elevation of the roadway and restoring some of the coastal wetlands using native plants and natural materials, we’ve ensured a safer and more reliable passage for residents, visitors and emergency vehicles.”

Kingston said also that the Living Shoreline and Resiliency Project – probably the second largest town project and exceeded only by beach nourishment – is more than just a construction project.

“It’s a symbol of our community’s resilience,” he continued. “And it demonstrates our commitment to finding innovative solutions to the challenges we face, and it paves the way for a more sustainable future for Duck.”

It has been a multifaceted project aimed at
● elevating NC12 three feet to limit flooding from the Currituck Sound,
● restoring native marsh vegetation to protect an eroding shoreline,
● improving stormwater drainage,
● establishing a bicycle and pedestrian connection on the west side of NC12 between the Resort Realty property and Sunset Grille.

Some parts of the project were discussed as far back as 2014 during a pedestrian plan update. The need for shoreline restoration work and the addition of a pedestrian walkway were identified in 2018 and in 2019 a group from Western Carolina University identified the area of NC 12 between Resort Realty and Sunset Grille as the most vulnerable roadway in the community.

It was noted in 2020 that while NCDOT owns the NC12 roadway, it is not in a position to fund the project and town officials secured Dare County Tourism Board and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grants to fund a shoreline restoration project and sidewalk work.

Then, during the permitting process, Chris DeWitt, a consultant with VHB out of Williamsburg, Va., learned there was a Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities grant available that could make the NC12 improvement project happen considerably sooner than previously thought possible. In late 2021 Duck got word that a BRIC grant of up to $1.7 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency would be coming. All projects were then grouped into one project with a mid-October 2022 start date. When the BRIC grant took longer than expected to arrive, work was again delayed until 2023.

While thanking the many project partners, Duck senior planner Sandy Cross pointed out that Fred Smith Construction started work October 18, 2023 and was able to complete the project ahead of schedule 148 construction days later this past Monday on May 20, 2024.

That translates to 216 calendar days of lane closures and traffic delays as alternating lane closures took place. Motorists were asked to be patient, courteous and cautious while driving through the construction area and not block intersections if stopped.

Cross then added that the overall success of the project was due to the cooperative effort of the entire town staff, as well as Duck Ridge Shores and Sea Colony property owners along with Tom Stewart at Resort Realty who provided areas to stage equipment which helped keep the project on schedule.

“And while the project is complete,” Cross continued, “the work is not done. We’re going to monitor for five years and share what we’ve learned with other communities. It’s a chance to show how much better a living shoreline can be as opposed to bulkhead use.”

At the end of comments, town officials and several project partners participated in a ceremonial ribbon cutting near the NC12 project area followed by a reception at the Paul F. Keller Meeting Hall.