- Associated Press - Saturday, February 20, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A project to pump sand along an area of eroding beach on Hatteras Island is one permit closer to being a reality.

The National Park Service has approved a special use permit to Dare County for the project in Buxton to protect N.C. Highway 12 from flooding. The project now only needs a permit from the Corps of Engineers, said contractor Tim Kana, president of Coastal Science and Engineering in Columbia, South Carolina.

“If everything works, we’ll be putting sand on the beaches in June,” county manager Bobby Outten said Friday, adding the work should take about three months.

The sand has to be pumped during tourist season because storms make the ocean too dangerous for the project in the fall and winter, he said.

The 42-mile-long Hatteras Island is part of the Outer Banks, a fragile chain of barrier islands that juts into the Atlantic. In the past 13 years, Hurricanes Isabel and Irene have carved new inlets on the island that workers filled or built bridges to cover and Superstorm Sandy ate up enough beach to require renourishment in the Rodanthe area.

The beach from the previous site of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse to about 2 miles north of Buxton would receive 2.6 million cubic yards of sand, Kana said. The sand would be pumped from a site less than 2 miles offshore.

While the project will also protect private property, including several motels located at what’s become a hot spot for erosion, officials emphasize the project is being done to protect the highway. The owners of one motel in the area have sued the state Transportation Department, blaming it for the erosion.

Kana said he’s hopeful he’ll have all the permits in hand by the end of March or early April. Dare County must also seek bids for the project.

The Park Service did hear from critics, including a complaint that it didn’t address a long-term plan for dealing with erosion in Buxton.

In its written response, the Park Service said its environmental assessment “acknowledges that the wider beach following nourishment will continue to erode and only provide protection to NC12 for a limited time.”

The response also said the state Transportation Department is preparing a report for five-year and 50-year alternatives to the two-lane highway. That planning process is in the early stages, and DOT “has not proposed a specific project for protecting NC12 from erosion in the future,” the Park Service wrote.

State officials said Friday that advance work for construction of a new Bonner Bridge across the Oregon Inlet at the north end of Hatteras Island is scheduled to begin Tuesday. In addition, construction of an interim Pea Island bridge is beginning.

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Martha Waggoner can be reached at https://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc. Her work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/martha-waggoner


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