VIRGINIA BEACH – A long-awaited sand replenishment project for Sandbridge could begin this summer, depending upon an upcoming bid process and regulatory issues.
That means replenishment may happen when tourists are in town, enjoying the five miles of beach in the residential resort community. The project had been slated for this past year, but it has faced delays.
In September, the city noted that a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management needed to be in place before the project went out to bid in February. Officials had hoped that would have happened by now and to finish the work early in this year’s tourism season.
However, the agency in November sought more information – and then the federal shutdown happened, according to Phill Roehrs, the city’s water resources engineer overseeing flood control, navigation and estuary habitat restoration.
The federal bureau manages resources on the outer continental shelf, including the sand that would help shore up Sandbridge Beach.
“We were ready for the bureau to sign the [memorandum] in November, but they asked for more information,” Roehrs said in an interview. “We got it to them, and the government shut down.”
Offices effected by the shutdown returned to work under a deal to reopen through mid-February (and then another spending deal was reached to avoid another shutdown).
Roehrs said the city hopes to advertise the project in March, which could mean the project begins in the summertime or fall. It could start as soon as June.
The status of the Sandbridge project came up during two recent meetings, a briefing for the City Council about managing the city’s beaches and during a recent town hall meeting hosted by City Councilmember Barbara Henley, who represents the Princess Anne District. The district, including Sandbridge, is the main coverage area for The Independent News.
During the meeting with the council on Tuesday, Jan. 22, Roehrs gave an overview of the management of various beaches, noting that Sandbridge largely pays for its replenishment projects through additional tax dollars that come from that community.
Sandbridge has a special service district, or SSD, meant to provide for beach and shoreline management, including replenishment.
“As soon as they can get back to work and review the package we sent to them … hopefully, they’ll be in a situation to sign the [memorandum],” Rohrs told the City Council, speaking of the shutdown that was then underway and noting the city was ready to advertise the project.
Henley said the project was supposed to be paid largely by the federal government, based upon a longstanding agreement for replenishment projects at Sandbridge. However, Sandbridge through its service district has picked up much or all of recent tabs.
“It’s pretty much all local,” Henley said.
“It is,” Roehrs replied.
About $3 million in federal funding is slated for the project, which could cost $17 million.
Henley said it was important to understand that every penny from the service district goes to sand and sand management. Tax increment financing, or TIF finding, can be used as a backup to the special service district money.
“It’s worked out well, except every time we go to do a replenishment, they’re really not giving any federal money,” Henley said.
During the meeting, City Manager Dave Hansen said the city originally hoped to do the Sandbridge project before another at the main resort, which might help the city get better bids, such as from a contractor that could go from one project to the next.
“Is this going to bump up the cost of the Sandbridge project?” Henley asked.
“Not necessarily,” Roehrs said.
In an interview, Roehrs said the replenishment process involves about a 1,000 foot work area of the beach at any given time, and that this work is constantly progressing. That means, should the replenishment happen during the tourist season, it does not shut down the beach or opportunities for people to enjoy it during their vacations.
“The work zone is not adjacent to any particular residence for more than a day or two, and it will be no more than a 1,000 foot work zone,” Roehrs said.
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