In mid-April the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that they had accepted a bid from Weeks Marine Inc. to dredge the Wilmington Harbor inner ocean bar. As a result of the dredging project, portions of Oak Island will see beach nourishment this summer. Though the project will only affect approximately a third of the beach strand, we know our guests who will be staying in an area slated for nourishment will have questions concerning the project. We have compiled a list of frequently asked questions and answers below based on information reported by “The State Port Pilot”, direct emails from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and conversations with the company contracted for the dredging project. Read on to learn more.
What can I expect to see and hear on an affected section of the beach during beach nourishment?
During the Wilmington Harbor Maintenance Dredging Project the beach will remain open except in the areas of immediate construction where a 1,000-foot section of beach will be closed at any given time when nourishment is underway. There will be a very large pipe carrying the sand slurry down the beach and heavy excavation equipment on the beach working 24/7 until the project is completed. Work will go on around the clock during the nourishment process, which will include noise from large machinery and the sound of the sand slurry being pumped through and out of the pipe. Sand ramps will be spaced along the beach (estimated every 400 feet) to allow visitors to walk over the slurry pipe to the ocean. The video below shows the immediate area of construction during a nourishment project earlier this year at Wrightsville Beach and provides a good overview of the activity that will take place in the sections closed for nourishment.
Where will beach nourishment take place as a result of the Wilmington Harbor Maintenance Dredging Project?
Caswell Beach (except for the 400 block where sand is accreting, though a slurry pipe will be present on this portion of the beach for part of the summer), Yaupon Beach and sections of East Beach (from the Yaupon Beach border until about SE 58th Street).
When will the project take place?
Weeks Marine Inc. will begin staging for the project in early May 2018, with the actual beach nourishment portion of the project getting underway in late May. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that the project will wrap up sometime in August 2018, but the exact schedule and completion date can not be determined at this time as the pace of work will depend in part on how rough or calm the seas are each day.
Why is the project happening during my summer vacation?
Caswell Beach and Oak Island were supposed to receive sand from harbor maintenance in 2016-2017, but the work was delayed because of costs associated with Hurricane Matthew. When the project finally went to bid in November 2017, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not receive a single bid. The channel serves both the Port of Wilmington and the Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point (MOTSU), the nation’s largest ocean terminal for military munitions. Currently the channel has shoaled to less than 22 feet in parts, whereas it is “authorized to be 44 feet deep at mean low water” according to “The State Port Pilot.”
“The top priority of the project is to dredge the inner ocean bar at Wilmington Harbor to improve the navigability of the channel,” stated Henry Heusinkveld of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in an email to Oak Island Accommodations.
Once nourishment has been completed in each 1,000 foot section, will there still be signs the nourishment project is ongoing?
A very large pipe carrying the sand slurry down the beach will remain in place as the work moves from the far east end of Caswell Beach to the area around the Oak Island Pier. Once the beach nourishment reaches a point near the Oak Island Pier, the slurry pipes will be removed from the previously nourished sections and moved west where they will be used in the latter stages of the project. Sand ramps will be spaced approximately every 400 feet so that the public may cross over the slurry pipes until they are removed.
Can you tell me which section of the beach will be closed on my arrival?
Based on the information we have received, we believe Caswell Beach (except for the 400 block) and Yaupon Beach will see the most work in June and July. Work will then move on to include East Beach up until SE 58th Street at some point in July and possibly continue into August. It is possible that work will either be completed or will not have reached the beach access nearest your rental, but because of the number of variables that could affect the nourishment schedule we cannot say with any certainty that the nearest beach access would be unaffected. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has created an interactive map that will be updated throughout the project. By clicking on the areas of the beach slated for nourishment, you can see the progress of the project and estimated dates sand will be placed on each section of the beach. We will post regular updates here to keep our guests apprised of where work is currently underway.
Will future dredging projects occur in the summertime every year from now on?
According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, “…the work this summer is intended as a one-time event only that is necessary due to the funding situation this past year and a lack of bidders when the job was first advertised during the environmental window.”
I purchased travel insurance when making my OIA reservation. Does my policy cover any interruptions from beach nourishment?
If you purchased Red Sky travel insurance when making your reservation with Oak Island Accommodations, then contact Red Sky directly at 866.889.7409 or by email concerning any coverage questions.
I made my reservation before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced the project. Can I cancel my reservation?
All reservations are subject to our normal cancellation policy. Only a 1,000-foot section of the beach will be closed at any time. Though we can’t predict with exact certainty where the project will be upon your arrival, we will post regular updates here and on our Facebook page once the nourishment begins on our beaches. We also compiled a list of ways to make the most of your vacation during beach nourishment. Caswell Beach, Oak Island and Southport have so much to offer that the project is the perfect reason to go beyond the beach and check off some of those sand bucket list items you’ve been meaning to get to on previous trips.