By Amy Baker December 10, 2012
Castles in the Sand
If you are like me, then you have some fond childhood memories of building castles in the sand on Topsail Island. Every September since I can remember, my father’s side of the family (aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, etc.) has come to Topsail Island for a family vacation/reunion. One of my favorite things about this beach has always been playing in the sand—whether my siblings and I were feeling for sand fiddlers, combing the shore for shells, or building castles.
Now as an adult who is privileged to live on the north end of the island, I am passionate about protecting it for my family’s enjoyment and for the enjoyment of countless families who come here year after year looking to build their own castles. I would like to know that our beach will continue to provide an environment conducive for sea turtle nests as well. (If you have never seen the hatch-lings come alive and make their way to the ocean, it is truly an awesome sight to behold!
Yesterday, my husband and I witnessed some serious “castle building” just in front of the Topsail Reef condos at the north end. Actually, it looked more like little maritime mountains growing higher and higher as we watched the dredge and the bulldozers at work. In a relatively short period of time, (less than two weeks), the Marinex Construction crew responsible for the renourishment and realignment project has built the beach up and out from the northern tip south to building 7 at the Reef.
Promises (and Pains) of Progress
Bright lights, back up “beeps,” and the growl of heavy equipment are all part of running a safe operation, but they have no doubt been an inconvenience to some during this project. As project manager, Tom Payne, promised in an earlier interview, his crews have been working around the clock to get the job done. They and we appreciate the patience of residents and guests during this time.
The reclamation (sandbagging) project that took place at the Reef this summer and early fall was also inconvenient, but it provided the necessary protection to all of the buildings. The beach renourishment now underway makes the Reef’s efforts (and the inconveniences) endured seem all the more worthwhile.
Ask the Engineer: “Sacrificial Sand”
Curious to know more about the science behind the design, I recently, attended a public meeting at the town hall, where Robert Neal, the project engineer from Coastal Planning and Engineering, explained more about Phase I of the project. According to Mr. Neal, this phase of the project will extend down to the area in front of Bay Court, and could be completed as early as mid-January. Using what Mr. Neal calls “sacrificial sand” dredged from the channel, which is being realigned closer to its original position, the crew will create an approximately 180 feet extension to the shoreline. This sand will not stop erosion trends, but it will slow the erosion. Instead of the ocean claiming the sand that forms our infrastructure, about a third of this “sacrificial sand” will go in its place.
The dunes constructed will be approximately 25 feet wide with an elevation of 14 feet, (so since NTB
is at an elevation of about 6 feet already, the dunes would be roughly 8 feet high). On the landward side, it will look like the dunes are higher though. Of course, the crews cannot add to existing dunes with vegetation, but they will build the beach out in front of these dunes. Their work in front of the Reef (pictured above) is a good example.
At the conclusion of the town meeting held November 29, 2012, there were three outstanding issues that Mr. Neal highlighted.
1) Primarily, there was concern from townspeople and some of the board about the gulley problem created by the state’s regulations which would not permit the crew to push dredged sand underneath structures on the beach. (see photo to right)
2) There was a design issue regarding the 4 feet dunes being developed at the N. Tip versus the original 8 feet design.
3) The Corp of Engineers’ project and the possibility of coordinating with them in this effort.
From recent communication with Interim Town Manager, Carin Faulkner, it looks like the gulley issue is being deliberated and the town is awaiting a response from the state. However, “the town was told that fill could be placed ‘up to the structures,’ and Mr. Neal is working with CAMA on the definition of that,” said Faulkner. Robert Neal will also coordinate with Marinex Construction on the logistics and legalities.
More information about this issue will hopefully be available at the next public meeting to be held December 13, 2012 at 10:00AM at the Town Hall. If you cannot make it to this meeting, another one is scheduled for Thursday, December 27, 2012, same time, same place.
Seeing is Believing
I know not all of you will be able to come and see the work in progress, but hopefully you can make the journey sometime in 2013, and see the difference for yourself when the work is completed. Honestly, it is quite fascinating to watch them at work and to see what they have already accomplished in under two weeks. If you do plan to visit during construction, you might want to hurry. If progress continues as it has been, crews are likely to be finished much earlier than the March 31, 2013 deadline.
More to Come
Be sure to keep checking in; as progress continues, I will be posting updates. Please feel free to ask questions or comment below. Thanks for your feedback.