WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, N.C. (WECT) – As the shoreline continues to erode, leaders in Wrightsville Beach are hoping to complete a beach renourishment project by next summer, but an offshore obstacle is in the way.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers discovered around 300,000 tires underwater as they were surveying an area to draw sand from for the latest renourishment project.
“We had to identify an offshore borrow source, which we did, and the second obstacle came when, as we were doing our investigation of that offshore borrow source, we encountered some foreign material being tires that have come from an artificial reef that had been placed out there in the 70s,” said Dave Connolly, the Public Affairs Chief for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wilmington District.
Wrightsville Beach’s renourishment is federally funded, meaning it has to adhere to the guidelines of the Coastal Barrier Resources Act. The town had used Masonboro Inlet to collect sand for its beaches for decades, but after a new interpretation of the act last year, they had to find a new place to dig.
The tires were likely part of an artificial reef placed by the state in the 1970s or 1980s that have since drifted down the coast. Patricia Smith with the NC Division of Marine Fisheries says there could be more than half-a-million tires along the shoreline even though the practice of using tires for that purpose ended in the 80s.
“Over the years some of these tires have drifted off of the artificial reefs,” said Smith. “Some of them have washed ashore, when they do that we pick them up we get them disposed of properly.”
The tires underwater, however, are too expensive to remove. That means the Army Corps of Engineers working on the project will have to work around them to find enough sand.
“The most feasible and cost-effective course of action right now that we’re exploring is to work within that zone to find the areas that have beach compatible, deep sand that we could pull from with without pulling in tires,” said Connolly.
A solution needs to be found quickly as the last renourishment project was in 2018, and more of the coastline erodes each day.
“That ism you know, our lifeline out there,” said Wrightsville Beach Town Manager Tim Owens. “It’s our protection, you know, for hurricanes and those type of things. So, the more we prolong it, the worse things can get.”
Project leaders are now working to put together a plan, which will be open for public input at some point in the near future. Connolly says the goal is to have the project completed by the summer of 2023.
Wrightsville Beach Mayor Darryl Mills says he has tried several times to ask the federal government for a more clear explanation as to why the town can no longer collect sand from Masonboro Inlet. He has asked for more evidence of the environmental impacts within that area.
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