September 11, 2018

MEMO TO:        Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

FROM:             Frank A. Rush, Jr., Town Manager

SUBJECT:       Archers Creek Culvert Replacement / Tidal Flow Enhancement - (Summary & Suggested Motions)

The Board of Commissioners is scheduled to consider the attached resolution authorizing a grant application to the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management’s Planning & Management Grant program.  If authorized by the Board, the grant application would seek up to $15,000 for a study to determine the optimal design and potential benefits and impacts associated with enhanced tidal flow in Archers Creek under Lee Avenue.  The Town would provide up to $5,000 as a local match for this grant. 

The entire eastern segment of Archers Creek is approximately 1.9 miles long, and runs east from Old Ferry Road (near CVS) to Bogue Sound.  The creek flows from Old Ferry Road through existing pipe culverts under Bogue Inlet Drive, Cedar Street, and behind the EMS Station and Fire Station, and this portion of the creek is primarily a freshwater drainage feature for the central area of Emerald Isle.  Archers Creek then flows between the Town Government Complex and the new McLean-Spell Park and into a coastal marsh area before flowing through an existing 60-inch pipe culvert under Lee Avenue.  Beyond Lee Avenue, the creek flows through significant coastal marsh, with regular tidal fluctuation, before reaching Bogue Sound in the 7000 block of Emerald Isle. 

The existing pipe culvert at Lee Avenue was installed in the late 1970s, and is now approximately 40 years old.  The pipe is deteriorating, and is threatening the integrity of the Lee Avenue roadway in this area.  Most of Lee Avenue is constructed on a causeway feature across coastal marsh, and the 60-inch pipe culvert allows Archers Creek to flow east toward Bogue Sound, and also allows rising tides to flow west beyond Lee Avenue.  As discussed previously, the Town’s FY 18-19 budget includes a total of $15,000 to replace the deteriorating pipe culvert before any significant damage to Lee Avenue occurs.  The Town had been planning to replace the Lee Avenue pipe culvert with an identical (new) pipe this winter, however, we have delayed that work in order to explore a strategy that would enhance tidal flow in Archers Creek in this area in order to promote more consistent flow, promote reasonable creek depths, and promote a healthy coastal marsh environment.  In recent months, there have been concerns raised by nearby residents about the narrowing and shallowing of Archers Creek in this area and the proliferation of invasive vegetation (including phragmites), and there is a general belief that a larger culvert (or culverts) would enhance tidal flow and improve the creek environment in this area.       (See Photos)

The Town is sensitive to these concerns, and we have begun efforts to address these concerns.  The proposed grant application, if funded, would enable the Town to determine the optimal design of a new culvert (or culverts) to achieve the Town’s goals, identify other strategies to promote a healthy marsh environment in conjunction with the culvert replacement, develop a better understanding of the regulatory issues associated with these efforts, and develop an understanding of the practical impacts on nearby property owners.  Grant funds, if awarded, would be use to hire a consultant to study these issues and recommend a prudent project scope. 

The attached resolution establishes a budget of up to $20,000 for this work, and the consultant would be tasked with reviewing the following issues for the Town:

  • the optimal size and design of a new culvert (or culverts) to achieve the desired goals,
  • the potential new or additional flooding impact on upstream property owners during excessively high tides or storm events,
  • the identification of other strategies to promote a healthy marsh environment in conjunction with the culvert replacement (i.e., eradication of existing invasive vegetation, selective excavation or alteration of the creek bottom, and/or other strategies),
  • the potential environmental benefits,
  • necessary permit authorizations,
  • any changes to the Federal and/or State regulatory scheme that may result and impact nearby property owners,
  • estimated project construction costs,
  • any potential Federal and/or State funding opportunities, and
  • any other relevant issues.

The NC Division of Coastal Management expects to award approximately $100,000 to local governments in the 20 coastal counties this year, with a maximum grant award of $20,000.  The Town has been very successful in securing grant funding from the NC Division of Coastal Management in the past, and normally, I believe the Town’s proposed grant application would be very competitive.  However, I am more uncertain about the Town’s chances for a grant this year due to the grant program’s stated emphasis on “natural hazards and storm recovery” projects, but I believe the proposed grant application is worth the effort.  Grant applications are due on September 14, and awards will be announced in mid-October.  If grant funds are awarded, the Town will solicit consulting services later this year and the study would likely begin in early 2019.  If the Town is not awarded the requested grant funds, I will attempt to identify alternate funding for the proposed study and present an alternate recommendation to the Board later this year.

Additionally, the Town is scheduled to meet with various regulatory agencies in a formal “scoping” meeting about this project on September 17.  I expect this meeting to be helpful in understanding some of the issues described above, and this input will be used to refine the scope of the proposed study. 

A public hearing is required prior to Board consideration of the attached resolution, and has been scheduled for the September 11 meeting.

I recommend approval of the attached resolution.