Dredging contractor Weeks Marine over-filled the Southern Shores beaches south of 4th Avenue with more sand than they needed, and, as a result, under-filled the beaches north of 4th Avenue, beach nourishment program manager and coastal engineer Ken Willson acknowledged at a public project update meeting today at the Pitts Center.
While Weeks Marine and Coastal Protection Engineering (CPE), Willson’s company, delivered the contractually agreed-upon 894,000 cubic yards of sand per linear foot to the Southern Shores oceanfront, that volume was not distributed as the Town expected it to be. Instead, too much sand was deposited on the southern beaches, leaving the northern beaches short of volume. (Locals who were shocked by the change in the beaches south of 4th Avenue have reason to be.)
The beaches north of 4th Avenue were to receive 22 cubic yards of sand per linear foot, Mr. Willson said in response to questions from an active audience that attended both in-person and on Zoom.
In fact, he admitted, those beaches only received 13 cubic yards of sand per linear foot—which were deposited over a three-day period, from Nov. 20-22. The speed with which the dredging occurred caused alarm among northern property owners, who posted comments on the social media site, Nextdoor. (See The Beacon, 11/28/22.)
Twenty-two cubic yards of sand per linear foot is still considerably less volume than what the southern beaches were to receive, even if Weeks Marine had not over-filled them. They were supposed to receive one-third the amount of sand as the beaches south of 4th Avenue, Mr. Willson said.
“By design,” he said, “the northern beaches were never going to get the same amount of sand” as the southern beaches because coastal engineering surveys over a period of several years repeatedly showed that the northern beaches were not vulnerable to storm damage nor were they in need of mitigation from long-term erosion.
The Southern Shores beachfill project was designed to 1) provide for a reasonable level of “storm damage reduction” to the coastline in the event that a potential storm comparable to Hurricane Isabel hit Southern Shores (this level was determined by computer analysis) and 2) to reduce long-term erosion, which is a problem for only certain sections of the oceanfront, as The Beacon has previously documented.
The only reason the oceanfront north of 4th Avenue was included in the beach nourishment project was to create a “sufficient useable beach” in that area. This design goal was added to the project after homeowners on Seventh Avenue complained about their narrow beach, especially at high tide. In December 2020, the Town Council unanimously approved adding to the other two beachfill design goals the maintenance of a “healthy beach that provides sufficient useable beach and supports shorebird and sea turtle nesting habitat.”
CPE defined a sufficient useable beach as one that is 84 feet wide, as measured from “the wet-dry line to the toe of the dune,” Mr. Willson recalled today. The coastal engineer claimed that the beaches north of 4th Avenue currently do in fact have a width of 84 feet, even though they did not receive the sand volume that the construction design called for.
So, what happened? Why did the southern beaches receive so much of the sand that was to be deposited in the north?
According to Mr. Willson, a “significant discrepancy” occurred between a survey of the beach that was performed in May 2021 for design purposes and an August 2022 survey of the beach that was performed before construction began. Conditions of the beach changed, as they so often do. The volume of sand in the system increased: The beach accreted, gaining 180,000 cubic yards per linear foot naturally.
But the project design did not change to accommodate this “discrepancy.” No adjustments were made. Weeks Marine operated with a “template”— as Mr. Willson called it—for construction that was appropriate for the 2021 beach, but not for the August 2022 beach. In essence, it piled the sand on.
Whose fault is that? We leave that question to Weeks Marine and CPE to sort out and then for the Town to explain to residents. As Mr. Willson explained, the construction contract provides for an adjustment in the template, based on a change in conditions, provided Weeks gives CPE the requisite notice. A Weeks Marine employee who attended today’s meeting said the contractor had attempted notification, but clearly there was a disconnect between the parties.
CPE is “in discussions” with Weeks Marine about how to address the shortfall in the northern beaches.
So where does the Town stand in all of this?
Town Manager Cliff Ogburn did not speak publicly today, but he did speak with The Beacon after the meeting about the issuance of a statement to residents tomorrow. He also said the Town Council will be discussing the problems that arose with the beach nourishment project, starting at next Tuesday’s meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the Pitts Center.
Mayor Pro Tem Matt Neal, who is a local builder, attended today’s meeting and asked Mr. Willson for copies of the 2021 and 2022 beach surveys. The only other Town Council member in attendance was Paula Sherlock, who appeared by Zoom.
Mr. Willson said that Weeks Marine and CPE should have a resolution regarding the northern beaches “within a couple of weeks.”
According to Mr. Willson, the first day of sand pumping in Southern Shores was Oct. 7; the last day was Nov. 22. The Beacon regrets that we said on Nextdoor that the pumping had started in September, which was the original plan. The photograph at top is of equipment at the Trout Run access on Sept. 17. Storms apparently delayed the start of the dredging for three weeks.
We have been writing about beach nourishment for about four years now and are ready to turn over further explanations and disclosures to the Town.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 11/30/22
5 thoughts on “11/30/22: BEACH NOURISHMENT CONTRACTOR DEPOSITED TOO MUCH SAND ON THE SOUTHERN BEACHES, NOT ENOUGH IN THE NORTH. MISTAKES WERE MADE.”
With due respect to those already whining, this is one of those “you get what you get” moments. The sand is going to shift drastically very soon. We’ve been at each other for years about this project. Last big one of these projects, when Bennett ran the canal dredging, it cost the town an additional million dollars to settle the problems incurred. Let’s not throw good money after bad again. Most of us didn’t want it to begin with, so we’re already feeling like the money was wasted to appease a handfull of loudmouth 2nd homeowners. That sand is already migrating. Put this mess behind us and see what the next tide brings.
Thanks for your comment, Jeff. I feel compelled to point out that the Town made significant mistakes with the canal dredging project and ended up paying off a settlement for breach of contract. In this case, the Town is a passive actor, relying upon the expertise of CPE and Weeks Marine. I went to every public meeting/hearing that was held on beach nourishment and rarely heard a voice raised in opposition to the project. Most people who spoke at meetings were only interested in how much they would have to pay in additional taxes.
Thanks for the reply Ann. I moved here much younger than most residents, and this project, the canal, the cell tower, the dredging, the cop cars we got scammed into buying, how SAGA just played us on the mini hotels, the tree cutting….
Well you probably know what it’s like to have grandparents or parents get older and fall for all this smoke that scammers try to blow up their a***?
This town, while it is great in so many ways, is like that old grandparent sometimes. Of course this sand project wasn’t going to be all wine and roses. There’s no way our coastline is going to be controlled. And while I’m sure you and your group might support it IN THEORY, on the street and in the water, there is just a lot of eye rolling that people think it would do anything for more than a few weeks or a season.
I can just see a group of you getting all bent out of shape over this sand distribution nonsense and rolling up the attorney bills and screaming into the wind and for what? Sand moves. It’s already much different down there than it was a couple weeks ago at peak sand.
Let it go everyone, please. Make it a learning moment. The engineers and dredging companies have stuck their hands in your pocket for very little return. OK. So be it. Lesson learned. Don’t let them keep rummaging for more, it’s embarrassing for us as a community.
Hi, Jeff. Haha. Allow me to introduce myself. I have more than 50 years of experience with Southern Shores. My parents built the first house on pilings in Southern Shores in 1971, after purchasing property in 1969. I was a young teenager then, so you can do the math. My siblings and I were perhaps the only oceanfront property owners who opposed doing beach nourishment north of the Pelican Watch area. I spoke and wrote repeatedly in opposition, but I was a lone voice in the wilderness. I write The Beacon so people will be somewhat informed, not to promote a position of my own. I imagine you and I agree on quite a few issues. Thanks again.
84 ft of beach from the high tide line is a gross exaggeration. It’s half that at best.