Bill would authorize storm-reduction projects for local beaches

Published: Thursday, May 29, 2014 at 02:59 PM.

Legislation authorizing 34 U.S. water projects, including a multimillion-dollar storm damage reduction project for North Topsail Beach and Surf City, is “significant” even though it doesn’t provide money for them, local leaders say.

The Water Resources Reform and Development Act, a bipartisan bill passed by the U.S. House earlier this week, is a major step in the federal government acknowledging that small beach towns need financial assistance to fund costly shoreline projects, officials say. The bill is awaiting Senate approval.

“The word ‘authorization’ is welcome news for us in the town because it’s a clear recognition that coastal towns need assistance to protect the coast,” North Topsail Beach Town Manager Stuart Turille said. “It’s the concept that the federal government understands now that a dollar spent up front has more benefit than a dollar spent afterwards in, say, an event such as Superstorm Sandy or Hurricane Katrina. Without authorization we would have no chance of any funding.”

The amount of federal funding that may be allocated to North Topsail Beach and Surf City’s estimated $138.5-million joint coastal storm damage reduction project remains unclear.

Funding for each project will require separate bills.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Surf City Town Manager Larry Bergman said. “If you go back many years you have these different milestones that you’re trying to achieve, and this is really a big one. The funding part is the next phase. It comes down to getting a priority spot with the Corps of Engineers. This is a great step, and I think it’s really kind of a testament to how both towns and elected officials have been pushing it all along.”

The towns initiated the proposed project in 2002 after Congress authorized a feasibility study of the Topsail Island shoreline following Hurricane Fran in 1996 and Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Those hurricanes caused extensive damage to the island.



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