From an Island Free Press report
Dare County officials and representatives from contractors Coastal Science and Engineering and Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co. last week reviewed for the public plans for the beach nourishment projects in Avon and Buxton.
The review took place Thursday during a meeting at the Fessenden Center in Buxton.
The two projects, which have been in the works for years, are expected to begin this summer and each take about 40-60 days to complete.
Officials have said the projects are to protect N.C. 12 from being destroyed by hurricanes and nor’easters, restore erosional hot spots, provide wider recreational beaches and restore sand eroded in Buxton since a 2017 beach nourishment project. The projects would also allow Avon and Buxton to be eligible for future Federal Emergency Management Agency community assistance funds, only granted to engineered beaches.
Dredging here takes place in the summer because of weather and wave heights. The maximum wave height to conduct safe dredging is 5 feet, and the average wave height during summer is typically well below the maximum.
During both projects, sand is to be dredged from two borrow pits about 2 miles offshore and deposited on the beach via five pipelines before being leveled. The process is expected to make the beaches at least 100 feet wide and flat throughout, but the beach profile will likely change as storms and natural weather patterns occur.
Dr. Haiqing Liu Kaczkowski, senior coastal engineer for Coastal Science & Engineering, said the beach nourishment maintenance project in Buxton will add about 1.2 million cubic yards of sand to the northern Buxton beaches.
Officials said the main reason for the project is that nourishment is not a one-time endeavor, and projects have to be conducted every five years or so in order to maintain a wide beach and a safe and protected N.C. 12.
A hopper dredge is to be used to excavate sand from the offshore borrow pit. The primary staging area is planned to be a half-acre site at the end of Old Lighthouse Road in Buxton.
Two dredges are to work in Buxton. The Ellis Island dredge, which is expected to arrive in July, is to immediately begin working in Buxton, and the Liberty Island dredge is expected to arrive in June and pump sand to both Avon and Buxton.
Once the project is complete, the county plans to have a contractor install sand fencing and vegetation sometime after Nov. 15, the end of the sea turtle nesting season.
The Avon Beach Nourishment project is a new endeavor expected to deposit 1 million cubic yards of sand on around 2.2 miles of Avon shoreline, from Due East Road to the southern village limits.
In 2021, the Dare County Board of Commissioners voted to create a new service tax district in Avon to help fund the project.
The Avon project is planned to begin before the Buxton project, with dredging by the Liberty Island expected to start in June, although construction activities may begin as early as May as Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co. mobilizes.
Dunes are to be built up south of the Avon Pier, but not north of the pier where officials said a healthy dune line already exists.
The staging area for the Avon beach nourishment project is to be at off-road vehicle ramp 38, which will likely be closed for the duration of the project due to equipment and safety concerns.
Easements have been requested by Dare County from some homeowners in the project area so that sand may be added to sections of the shoreline beyond the National Park Service boundary.
One of the biggest concerns, primarily for Avon, is beach access during the summertime project.
Dare County Public Information Officer Dorothy Hester said the county would provide regular updates on the project’s progress and current closures via the county’s website, morebeachtolove.com, including a map for Avon and a map for Buxton.
Another concern was how construction would affect wildlife, particularly endangered sea turtles that nest and lay their eggs during summer.
Officials said wildlife monitoring would take place 24 hours a day and nests relocated as needed. If the subcontractor biologists conducting the monitoring work spot American oystercatchers, least terns or other nesting endangered or threatened bird species in the project area, a 1,000-foot closure is to be installed so that the contractor and equipment won’t encroach on the area.
A recording of the meeting is available on Dare County’s YouTube page at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXnzYOaotwQ.
This story is provided courtesy of the Island Free Press, a digital newspaper covering Hatteras and Ocracoke islands. Coastal Review is partnering with the Free Press to provide readers with more environmental and lifestyle stories of interest along our coast.