Plans to Fill Hatteras Breach, Replace N.C. 12 Changed

Mon October 13, 2003 - National Edition

RALEIGH, NC (AP) The project to fill an inlet created by Hurricane Isabel and replace the strip of N.C. 12 that was destroyed by the storm is getting bigger.

Emergency management officials said that they have adjusted plans for the project, which now includes replacing a dune to protect the island from future storm surges. In addition, the estimate of 400,000 cu. yds. (310,000 cu m) of sand needed has been increased to 600,000 (460,000) to 700,000 (540,000).

Cost estimates are also expected to increase, though it is unclear how much.

"[The project’s expansion] was something expected," said Ken Taylor, state director of emergency management. "As engineers get better and better refined numbers, you get closer to reality."

The new inlet wiped out a 1,700-ft. (520 m) section of the road and isolated approximately 300 Hatteras Village residents on the southern end of the island when the storm landed Sept. 18. Crews have since installed water and power lines to reach those residents, Taylor said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to complete filling the inlet in about a month, according to a news release from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It will then take approximately two weeks for the road to be completed, said Bill Jones, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.

FEMA originally allocated $2.65 million for the inlet-filling project, but spokesman Don North recently estimated the cost at $4 million.

Jones said the North Carolina Department of Transportation would have a better idea how much the road repair would cost after meeting with contractors next week.

Taylor said replacing the protective dune would help stabilize the stretch in future storms, comparing it to sandbags being used to prevent flooding.

"If all we do is restore the road, it will be an incredibly thin part of the island," Taylor said. "We need to have the thing be able to withstand at least some level of storm surge."

Officials said the contractor, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co., foresaw delays in originally proposed routes for pipelines to deliver sand to the breach. The route was modified to minimize the amount of submerged pipeline needed.

The contractor has already begun work assembling pipes and moving them into position. Some equipment is en route from Texas, while a dredge is on site, officials said.

Wayne Bissette, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project manager for the Wilmington District, said original estimates were "very rough" due to the need for a quick solution.

"In a longer-term process, these matters would be ironed out prior to contract award," Bissette said in a FEMA news release. "In this situation, the contractor is already at work doing everything possible while the remaining features of the project are finalized."