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USACE wants to ‘avoid’ dredging Masonboro Inlet for Wrightsville Beach nourishment projects

Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 3:28 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - For coastal communities in the Cape Fear region, beach nourishment projects help keep new sand on shorelines which are often a victim of erosion. Earlier this year, the Department of Interior reversed a Trump-era decision that would have allowed dredging of sand from protected areas like Masonboro Inlet.

Despite a decades-old interpretation of the law, it appears the US Army Corps of Engineers is planning to change course and no longer dredge from these so-called “CBRA” zones in order to replenish Wrightsville Beach.

The Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) aims to protect resources along the coast and limit the development of coastal barriers.

Part of that protection says that sand can’t be taken from protected areas, like Masonboro Inlet and Carolina Beach Inlet, and used for beach nourishment projects outside of the CBRA zone – which is what both Carolina Beach and Wrightsville Beach currently do.

A letter from the Corps of Engineers shows that the Biden administration’s latest ruling has the government rethinking their plans for dredging in these areas. In August, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service told the Corps that sand from the protected areas could not be used for beach nourishment projects outside of their areas.

“As a result, the recommended plan will be to avoid use borrow sites located within a CBRA Unit; however, environmental analysis of the utilization of the Masonboro Inlet borrow area will be included in the EA in recognition that changes to CBRA or unit maps may occur during the 15-year life of the project,” according to a letter from the Wilmington District of the Corps of Engineers.

Spokesman Dave Connolly explained the Corps’ latest plans.

“Here at the Army Corps of Engineers, we are absolutely committed to the protection of the coastal barrier resources system and so for Wrightsville beach specifically what we’re in the process of doing is identifying an officer or borrow source in that process is a pretty lengthy but it could take up to a year,” he said.

That lengthy process means that Wrightsville Beach won’t be included in this year’s beach nourishment cycle, he said.

We reached out to Wrightsville Beach to find out what this means for their beach nourishment schedule as well as potential cost increases this will have, but at this time have not heard back from them.

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