Coastal government officials, state bureaucrats and employees from the Wilmington-based consulting firm Land Management Group gathered in Wilmington on Oct. 1 to discuss the future of the state’s shallow-draft inlets, including Carolina Beach Inlet.
Layton Bedsole, New Hanover County’s Shore Protection Coordinator, explained that the initiative has its roots in an announcement made about 18 months ago by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that they would potentially cease its current shallow-draft inlet dredging policies for coastal waterways in the state.
“They said they would be assessing the viability of the corps’ dredge merit,” Bedsole said after the meeting. “It is the primary dredge plan that the corps has used for years for maintaining the shallow-draft inlets. If the merit were to be mothballed, we would have no authorization at all to maintain Carolina Beach Inlet.”
In response, local leaders have begun a process to determine other methods for maintaining the inlets should the corps decide against continuing its current practices. Land Management Group was contracted to prepare a draft report that will estimate the cost and schedule for pursuing two types of dredging permits.
One option, an individual permit (IP), would be pursued by jurisdictions working unilaterally to secure the necessary authorizations to maintain their inlets. By contrast, a general permit (GP) could provide a one-size-fits-all approach for all inlets in the state to be permitted according to the same basic guidelines. However, only representatives from Topsail Island expressed an interest in pursuing an IP, an action the town is already undertaking.
Due in late October, the draft report will summarize the more than 160 inlet-related documents Land Management Group has compiled and analyzed. Christian Preziosi, the wetland section manager for the firm, said at the meeting the process is on track for officials to be able to make a decision regarding how to move forward by the year’s end.
N.C. Division of Water Resources director Tom Reeder, who ran the meeting, said the study is being split 50-50 by the state and the local governments involved. After the meeting, he explained that the funding for the IP and/or GP would be provided in a similar manner.
“The state, once we get the study done, will go ahead and solicit for contract, and we’ll manage the contract for all the local governments that want to get their GP,” Reeder said. “We’ll pay 50 percent of the contract and then the local governments will have to chip in the other 50 percent. … [but] because the IP is so much more intensive and requires so much more administration to manage those contracts, we’ll be happy to finance the 50 percent of the state share to get that permit, but we’ll want the local governments to actually manage and administer it themselves.”
State funding will come from the Shallow Draft Inlet Management Fund, approved by legislation earlier this year which redirects some revenue from boat registrations and the state’s gasoline tax.