Memo-06-14-2016-Item15

June 14, 2016

MEMO TO:           Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

FROM:                  Frank Rush, Town Manager

SUBJECT:           Resolution Authorizing Funding Request to NC Shallow Draft Navigation Channel Dredging and Lake Maintenance Fund for Bogue Inlet Navigation Dredging

The Board of Commissioners is scheduled to consider the attached resolution authorizing a new State-local funding partnership that seeks to generate a total of $300,000 for navigation maintenance dredging in Bogue Inlet later in 2016 and perhaps into 2017.  The proposed share for Emerald Isle is $10,000, with $200,000 provided by the State and $90,000 by other Carteret-Onslow area local governments.  This new partnership is necessary because there is no Federal funding available for dredging, and only $6,000 remains from the previous State-local funding partnership. 

Background and Recent History

The US Army Corps of Engineers (“the Corps”) has historically maintained the Bogue Inlet connecting channel (“the connecting channel”) and the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway in our area (“the Bogue Inlet AIWW crossing”), and these navigable waterways are enjoyed by many area businesses, residents, property owners, and visitors.  It is important to understand that these are actually two separate projects for the Corps, and that they are dredged with different types of dredges and funded with different appropriations. 

The Bogue Inlet Connecting Channel

The Bogue Inlet connecting channel is the approximately 20,000 linear ft. channel that leads from the AIWW south to the Atlantic Ocean, and includes the 7,000 linear ft. channel dredged by the Town of Emerald Isle in 2005 as part of a major Bogue Inlet channel realignment project.  (Maps depicting the connecting channel are attached.)  The entire connecting channel has been historically maintained by the Corps with government-owned sidecast dredges that simply dredge the material from the bottom and cast it approximately 100 – 150 ft. to the side in shallow water.  The sidecast dredge does not have the capability to place dredged material on the beach, and is intended solely to provide short-term navigation benefits with an expectation that repeated dredging will be necessary to keep the channel open when shoaling occurs.  The authorized depth of the connecting channel is 6  - 8 ft. at mean low water. 

The Corps has historically dredged the connecting channel multiple times per year as needed, depending on shoaling conditions and the availability of the government-owned sidecast dredges.  It is important to note that the entire 20,000 linear ft. channel is not dredged during each dredging cycle or even each year.  In fact, some areas of the connecting channel have likely been dredged very infrequently, as shoaling conditions in certain areas of the connecting channel are minimal and have not required significant dredging.  Historically, most sidecast dredging in the connecting channel has occurred across the ocean bar (at the extreme southern end of the connecting channel) and at a few troublesome locations between the AIWW and the ocean bar. 

Prior to the mid-2000s, Federal funding (approximately $300,000 - $400,000 annually) was routinely appropriated for dredging in Bogue Inlet.  With the exception of special hurricane-relief appropriations, Congress has not appropriated funding for the dredging of the Bogue Inlet connecting channel since the mid-2000s.  Due to ongoing Federal budget challenges, it is unlikely that new annual appropriations are forthcoming.  Due to the absence of reliable Federal appropriations, the Town of Emerald Isle led efforts in 2006, 2011, and 2014 to assemble State and local funding for Bogue Inlet dredging.  The 2006 effort provided a total of $380,000 from the following:

        2006 State-Local Partnership

        State of North Carolina                                                            $ 285,000                75%

        Carteret-Onslow area local governments                                                              25%

                Onslow County                                                                       30,000

                Town of Swansboro                                                                 8,000

                Carteret County                                                                       30,000

                Town of Emerald Isle                                                             15,000

                Town of Cape Carteret                                                            6,000

                Town of Cedar Point                                                                6,000

        TOTAL                                                                                        $ 380,000

These funds were used to fund various dredging efforts between 2006 and 2013, and were supplemented by special hurricane-relief appropriations (Ophelia, Irene, etc.) by Congress.  These supplemental appropriations essentially enabled the Corps to reserve the 2006 State-local funding, and the 2006 State-local funding was used after all hurricane-relief appropriations were exhausted. 

In 2011, just before Hurricane Irene hit in August, there was concern that the 2006 State-local funding would soon be exhausted, and a new State-local funding partnership provided a total of $182,000 from the following:

        2011 State-Local Partnership

        State of North Carolina                                                               $ 91,000                50%

        Carteret-Onslow area local governments                                                              50%

                Onslow County                                                                       30,000

                Town of Swansboro                                                                 6,000

                Carteret County                                                                       30,000

                Town of Emerald Isle                                                             16,000

                Town of Cape Carteret                                                            3,000

                Town of Cedar Point                                                                6,000

        TOTAL                                                                                        $ 182,000

After Hurricane Irene, Congress again appropriated hurricane-relief funds for Bogue Inlet dredging, and that appropriation enabled the Corps to reserve the remaining 2006 State-local funds and the new 2011 funds for future dredging efforts.  The 2006 and 2011 State-local funds were eventually exhausted by 2014, and another new State-local partnership provided a total of $320,000 from the following:

        2014 State-Local Partnership

        State of North Carolina                                                            $ 160,000                50%

        Carteret-Onslow area local governments                                                              50%

                Onslow County                                                                       75,000

                Town of Swansboro                                                                 5,000

                Carteret County                                                                       55,000

                Town of Emerald Isle                                                             15,000

                Town of Cape Carteret                                                            5,000

                Town of Cedar Point                                                                5,000

        TOTAL                                                                                        $ 320,000

The 2014 State-local funds have been used over the past two years, and are now essentially exhausted, with only $6,000 remaining for future maintenance dredging in Bogue Inlet.  Thus, no maintenance dredging will occur in Bogue Inlet until additional funds can be identified. 

The Bogue Inlet AIWW Crossing

The Bogue Inlet AIWW crossing is an approximately 5,000 linear ft. segment of the AIWW located adjacent to Cedar Point at its intersection with the Bogue Inlet connecting channel.  (The Bogue Inlet AIWW crossing is also depicted on the attached map.)  The Bogue Inlet AIWW crossing is one of 8 AIWW crossings in North Carolina maintained every 2 - 3 years by the Corps, and is usually dredged with a privately-owned pipeline dredge that is under contract to the Corps.  The pipeline dredge uses suction to remove dredge spoils and then pumps the spoils away to a designated disposal site on the beach at or near The Point.  The Corps usually groups the work at several AIWW crossings into one competitively-bid contract to achieve an economy of scale and minimize expensive dredge mobilization costs.  As such, when the Bogue Inlet AIWW crossing is dredged it is usually part of a much larger, state-wide contract.  The authorized depth of the Bogue Inlet AIWW crossing is 12 ft. at mean low water.

Appropriations for the Bogue Inlet AIWW crossing are usually included in a larger Federal appropriation for the entire AIWW in North Carolina, and are not typically budgeted separately (due to the interdependent grouping of multiple AIWW crossings into one contract).  In recent years, the Corps has utilized anywhere from $4 million - $6 million annually to dredge multiple AIWW crossings in North Carolina.  Assuming a proportional distribution of the dredge mobilization costs, and the estimated quantity of material to be dredged every 2 - 3 years (usually anywhere from 30,000 – 80,000 cubic yards of material), the estimated cost of the Bogue Inlet AIWW crossing work per dredging event is approximately $500,000 - $1,000,000. 

The Bogue Inlet AIWW crossing was last dredged in January 2014, and approximately 48,000 cubic yards of sand was placed on the beach at The Point.  This work was funded 100% by the Corps.  The Bogue Inlet AIWW crossing remains in a safe condition, and will likely not need dredging again until 2017 or 2018.  As of now, we expect Federal funding to be available at that time for the AIWW in North Carolina, however, it would not be surprising if continuing Federal budget challenges impact the AIWW in the future also.  As such, the dredging of the Bogue Inlet AIWW crossing is not within the scope of this agenda item.

Resolution Authorizing Funding Request to NC Shallow Draft Navigation Channel Dredging and Lake Maintenance Fund for Bogue Inlet Navigation Dredging

The attached resolution formally authorizes a new State-local funding partnership for Bogue Inlet connecting channel dredging in 2016.  The attached resolution authorizes a State funding request in the amount of $200,000 (67%), and also authorizes the Town Manager to coordinate with other area local governments to provide the required 33% local match ($100,000).  The Board should note that due to recent changes in State law, the required local match has decreased from 50% to 33%, and results in significant savings for Carteret-Onslow area local governments. 

The total amount of State-local funding, if approved by all parties, would be $300,000, and this amount is expected to be sufficient to fund approximately 20 days of dredging.  This amount is expected to fund a new dredging event in August, and will likely then leave a sufficient balance for one or perhaps two more dredging events later in 2016 or 2017.  If a new, dedicated funding source for future navigation dredging is not identified in the meantime, it is likely that another State-local funding partnership will be contemplated sometime in 2017. 

If the Board approves the attached resolution, the Town (with assistance from the Carteret County Shore Protection Office) will present formal requests to Carteret-Onslow area local governments and to the NC Shallow Draft Navigation Channel Dredging and Lake Maintenance Fund.  The proposed cost-sharing in the attached resolution is as follows:

        Proposed 2016 State-Local Partnership

        State of North Carolina                                                            $ 200,000                67%

        Carteret-Onslow area local governments                                                              33%

                                Onslow County                                                                       47,500

                                Town of Swansboro                                                                 2,500

                                Carteret County                                                                       35,000

                                Town of Emerald Isle                                                             10,000

                                Town of Cape Carteret                                                            2,500

                                Town of Cedar Point                                                                2,500

                        TOTAL                                                                                        $ 300,000

The amount indicated from each of the Carteret-Onslow area local governments is less than the amount provided in 2014 due to the reduced local cost share (33% instead of 50%), so I am hopeful that all of the Carteret-Onslow area local governments will again participate in this partnership.  The proposed cost-sharing is intended to keep the amounts provided by the area municipalities at a manageable and realistic amount, and also because the municipalities are also part of each county. 

The proposal seeks to split the local government cost-share equally between Onslow County and Carteret County -- $50,000 each between each county and its municipalities.  The towns of Swansboro, Cape Carteret, and Cedar Point are all similar in size, and these towns have historically made a similar contribution to Bogue Inlet dredging costs.  Emerald Isle’s share is larger than the other municipalities due to our larger size and tax base.  If the Board approves the attached resolution, I envision the Town and/or the Carteret County Shore Protection Office sending a formal funding request to each of the area local governments for their formal consideration sometime between now and August 1. 

As noted, the Town of Emerald Isle’s contribution is $10,000.  These funds are included in the FY 16-17 budget scheduled for formal approval by the Board at the June 14 meeting.  It is also important to note that Carteret County’s contribution will need to come from the County’s General Fund, as this dredging does not involve sand placement and is therefore not an eligible expense for the Carteret County Beach Commission. 

Potential New Delineation of Bogue Inlet Connecting Channel

The Board should note that the Corps, with the Town’s consent, may attempt to delineate a new connecting channel in Bogue Inlet as part of the next sidecast dredging event.  As noted on the attached maps, the Corps may direct the sidecast dredge toward a more central alignment in the Bogue Inlet complex.  Much of this route already includes deep water, and it may only require limited dredging in a few key locations to fully establish a consistent deep(er) water channel with that alignment.  As noted on the attached maps, there is a continuing shoaling issue near buoy #8, and the new alignment would enable boaters to bypass that area completely.

The Board may recall that the potential new alignment is very similar to the marked channel in Bogue Inlet prior the mid-2000s when the current “western connector” alignment against Dudley Island was established.  It also now appears that many recreational vessels are routinely taking the new route anyway, which is quicker and more efficient.

Greg Rudolph (Carteret County Shore Protection Officer), Johnny Martin (Moffatt & Nichol Engineers), and I have discussed the potential new alignment, and believe that it will also provide a more efficient ebb flow through Bogue Inlet and should generally promote a more central location of the main ebb channel between Emerald Isle and Bear Island.  It is our hope that this new alignment will ultimately slow down the gradual migration of the main ebb channel toward Emerald Isle, and perhaps enable us to delay the next major Bogue Inlet channel realignment project that is (very) tentatively scheduled for 2020 or 2021.

If the Corps does focus dredging efforts on the new alignment, the US Coast Guard would then relocate all navigation aids from the current Bogue Inlet connecting channel to the new alignment soon after dredging is complete. 

Potential Future Dredging Strategy for Bogue Inlet Connecting Channel

As noted in previous correspondence with the Board, the Town was recently issued a new permit to also conduct navigation dredging activities in the Bogue Inlet connecting channel.  The new permit is nearly identical to the existing permit held by the Corps, and was obtained in case the Corps eventually abdicates its dredging responsibility in Bogue Inlet.  The new permit will enable the Town to contract with a private dredging company to maintain the Bogue Inlet connecting channel in the future, and could potentially enable the Town to utilize a pipeline dredge with the capability of depositing material on the beach in Emerald Isle rather than simply “casting it to the side” of the navigation channel. 

This approach may be very beneficial in the future, as it has the potential to provide a more consistent deep(er) water channel and allow for beneficial use of the sand (i.e., to strengthen The Point).  Although this approach is more expensive per event, I believe that the costs will be lower over the long-term, the Bogue Inlet connecting channel will be better defined and safer, additional nourishment benefits would be realized, and that it would promote a more central location for the main ebb channel in Bogue Inlet (away from Emerald Isle).  We plan to further evaluate this option in the next year, particularly if the Corps establishes the new alignment discussed above.  If additional evaluation suggests this is a prudent approach, we may present a recommendation to the Board and the Beach Commission next year for such an effort.  Additionally, I believe that such a project would be funded 67% by the State, 22% by the Beach Commission, and 11% by the Town (from the Future Beach Nourishment Fund).  This approach may ultimately prove to greatly extend the duration between the Town’s major Bogue Inlet channel realignment projects in the future.

Long-Term Funding for the Bogue Inlet Connecting Channel?

As noted above, the funding proposal included in the attached resolution would result in a total of $300,000 (or approximately 20 days’ worth) for maintenance dredging of the Bogue Inlet connecting channel.  Based on historical needs, this amount is expected to be sufficient though 2016 and into 2017.  This funding proposal obviously only addresses the short-term, and it remains important for Emerald Isle, other local governments, and others concerned about maintenance dredging to work on a long-term solution. 

The Carteret County Board of Commissioners previously considered a new ¼% sales tax dedicated for future navigation dredging needs in the entire County, however, a recent referendum was rejected by the voters.  The County has just recently appointed a new Waterways Management Committee (Commissioner Dooley serves on this committee), and this committee will be tasked with reviewing navigation dredging needs throughout the County and potential future dedicated funding sources.  This effort may eventually yield a dedicated funding source for future dredging in Bogue Inlet, and would likely eliminate the need for State-local funding partnerships similar to the one included in the attached resolution.   

I look forward to discussing this issue with the Board at the June 14 meeting.