Federal beach renourishment funds run dry

Wrightsville Beach (photo: Peyton Furtado)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY (WWAY) — Beach towns are trying to keep their renourishment projects afloat, after discovering financial help from the federal government may be unavailable.

Though the projects were authorized before the pandemic, the funds were never officially allocated after.

It’s the first time in 50 years New Hanover County’s beaches have not had the funds to renourish.

“We’ve been very fortunate historically for funding, said Layton Bedsole, New Hanover County’s Shore Protection Coordinator. “And this year caught us by surprise.”

The project is vital to protecting Wrightsville, Carolina, and Kure Beaches’ from hurricane season and general erosion.

“Every three years, we’ve really needed that sand on the beach,” explained Carolina Beach’s mayor, Leann Pierce. “So I can’t imagine what a four year cycle would look like.”

All three are up for renourishment in the fall, the first time in 12 years they’ve coincided.

“Every nourishment cycle is important,” Bedsole said. “But when all three of them occur in the same year… it’s a challenge.”

For 2022’s project, the federal government agreed to cover 65 percent of funding for Wrightsville and Kure beaches, and 50 percent for Carolina Beach. But about six weeks ago, the Army Corps of Engineers posted their work schedule with no mention of renourishment.

According to Pierce, skipping a cycle of renourishment could have major ecological and economic implications.

“Having sand on our beach protects our wildlife and sea creatures that inhabit it, such as our sea turtles.” Pierce continued, “Tourism is our number one generator here in Carolina Beach. So tourists come to Carolina Beach, we have to have a beach for them to visit.”

Bedsole remembered when Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast, flooding many businesses and homes because water overtook the neglected sand dunes.

​”These projects allow us to protect the coastal infrastructure that drives our local economy, state economy, regional economy. These beaches have economic impacts felt throughout the region.”

We reached out to our local Army Corps of Engineers, but they did not respond.