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ONLY ON 3: Future funding for NHC beach renourishment is questionable

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Beaches along Pleasure Island need to be renourished and it’s going to cost New Hanover County a lot to get it done. According to an agreement still being discussed, the state and federal government will throw in a portion of the price tag, but that funding could soon come to an end.

The county is between a rock and a hard place. Commissioners are at a point where funding beach renourishment could soon be put on the shoulders of the county. Also, it seems the Wilmington Convention Center is making it even more difficult to protect the county’s beaches.

New Hanover County Commissioners along with town leaders from both Carolina Beach and Kure Beach met Thursday to discuss a $14 million beach renourishment project agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers. However, the county may have to give more money than they thought.

“They were going ahead with the beach renourishment as planned and then the state said they would not be responsible for any overages and that threw them into a tailspin,” Kure Beach Mayor Dean Lambeth says.

The project agreement calls for the county to fork up more than $9 million, money that would come from the county’s room occupancy tax. For the past three years, at least $3 million that would have gone towards renourishment and tourism promotion has helped pay for the Wilmington Convention Center.

“The convention center is taking in $1 million a year, so yea that would have helped,” Lambeth says.

County Commissioner Jonathan bar field feels funding for both beaches and the convention center is important, but admits the future for beach renourishment in the county looks a little bleak.

“My concern is that long term what that would mean for that particular fund if the federal government and the state government totally shift the responsibility of beach renourishment down to the local level,” Barfield says. “We’ve got to find some alternative mechanisms to fund that as well.”

Commissioners will decide Tuesday whether to go through with the agreement and spend the more than $9 million plus any extra costs that could come up. During their Thursday meeting, Commissioners were unsure about having to pay the extra expenses if the project goes over budget. Chairman Ted Davis referred to the agreement as a possible “slippery slope.”

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