Sandbridge: With no federal dollars coming, Virginia Beach will fund next sand replenishment project alone

An image from the 2013 beach nourishment project in Sandbridge. The project was funded with local dollars, aside from federal emergency funds that replaced sand lost to a storm. [U.S. Army Corps of Engineers]

COURTHOUSE – Virginia Beach will go it alone again to replenish the beach at Sandbridge because the federal government won’t pony up.

Officials in September confirmed that the replenishment project will go ahead next year, possibly in the summertime, using local money set aside through a taxing district in the residential resort community.

Sandbridge has become self-reliant through a district that gathers tax money to put toward beach projects. The federal government is supposed to cover two thirds of the cost under a longstanding agreement with Virginia Beach. 

Virginia Beach, as it did in 2013, will foot the bill and partner with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District for expertise.

City Manager Dave Hansen on Tuesday, Sept. 12, sent a letter to U.S. Army Col. James Kelly, commanding officer of the district.

Hansen, who once served as head of the district himself, wrote that the city will commit up to $21.5 million for the upcoming project. The letter seeks a memorandum of understanding to work together while using local dollars to pay for the work.

“When we started this project back in the 1990s, it was to be 65 percent federal and 35 percent local,” City Council Member Barbara Henley, who represents the Princess Anne District that includes Sandbridge, noted during the council work session on Tuesday, Sept. 19.

“The good old days,” Mayor Will Sessoms responded.

City officials in recent meetings with the Sandbridge community have said they would recommend the project to go forward next year, whether or not the federal government contributed money.

Beach nourishment programs replenish beaches by putting sand back to protect homes and property from storms.

“We spend millions to save billions,” Dan Adams, coastal program manager for public works, said during a meeting with the Sandbridge Beach Civic League at Sandbridge Community Chapel United Methodist Church on Monday, April 17.

The Independent News this spring published a report called “Sand Dollars” about uncertainty in federal funding for beach nourishment projects. That story contains a history of efforts to restore the beach in Sandbridge, with and without federal cash helping put more sand on the beach. 

“There’s just not funding being allocated to the corps for them to put it into their work plan, and for them to distribute it in the current Norfolk plan,” Hansen said during the meeting on Tuesday, Sept 19.

Henley credited the Sandbridge community with having the foresight to ensure a local funding stream to maintain the beach.

“Here we’re able to do it without the federal money,” she said, “which is amazing.”

© 2017 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

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