New rules for sand funds leave room to maneuver

By on February 19, 2012

Beach nourishment in Nags Head. (Rob Morris)

New rules for doling out shoreline management money put an emphasis on public beach access but leave plenty of wiggle room for Dare County to make exceptions.

Commissioners took some heat last year when they allocated $56,000 from the Shoreline Management Fund to cover 75 percent of Duck’s cost to study erosion trends along its beaches.

Duck has no public beach accesses.

New rules subsequently were discussed, and the Board of Commissioners approved a policy earlier this month.

The policy calls for towns to pay all pre-construction expenses, including those for feasibility studies, environmental statements, consultants, permitting and other planning.

Nags Head, which received $18 million from the fund and will receive another $2 million each year for five years to help pay back a loan, laid out about $1 million of its own money before undertaking its 10-mile beach nourishment project last year.

One percent of the occupancy tax is dedicated to the shoreline management fund with another one percent authorized by the state but not yet approved by the Dare County Board of Commissioners.

The new rules generally call for public accesses every half mile and parking with five spaces within a quarter of a mile of each before a town can qualify for 75 percent county funding. Included are different variations, such as allowing accesses a mile apart as long as 10 public parking spaces are within a quarter of a mile.

Different calculations that achieve the same amount of parking and access can come into play. One provision allows for the possibility of public transportation to the accesses.

“Where a Shoreline Protection Project’s primary purpose is to protect public infrastructure (roads, utilities, water plants, etc.) or the benefits of the project can be demonstrably shown to exceed the benefits of the access requirements the public access requirement may be waived or modified by the Board of Commissioners,” the new policy says.

Access rules can also be waved for projects of less that $3 million.

If towns are competing for a limited amount of money, the one with the greatest public benefit will be favored, according to the policy.

Towns with limited or no public access such as Duck and Southern Shores have argued that they are entitled Shoreline Management Fund money because occupancy taxes they collect are also put into it.

Duck is still conducting its study and Kill Devil Hills is moving forward with planning for adding sand to about 2 miles of beach. Kitty Hawk may request some money to buy and remove a house where a breach in the dune line exacerbates flooding from coastal storms.

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