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With state endorsement, Atlantic Beach looks to execute watershed restoration and stormwater resilience plan

A parking lot near the Atlantic Beach causeway bridge abutment has pervious pavement in its parking spaces, a retrofit that could be used in other parts of town to address stormwater runoff. (Mike Shutak photo)

Posted on October 11, 2021

ATLANTIC BEACH — Atlantic Beach officials are seeking federal funds through a state-administrated program to improve local water quality.

Town planning and zoning director Michelle Eitner informed the Atlantic Beach Town Council at its regular meeting Sept. 27 the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality has approved the town’s watershed restoration and stormwater resilience plan.

The council adopted the plan Feb. 22, and the state’s approval means it complies with certain U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirements, which puts the town in a position to apply for funding opportunities, such as the state-administrated, federally funded 319 grant program.

Ms. Eitner said 319 grants are awarded for projects addressing nonpoint source pollution. On the North Carolina coast, stormwater runoff is the biggest source of nonpoint pollution for coastal watersheds, such as the White Oak River Basin, which includes Carteret County.

Ms. Eitner said watershed restoration plans are already in place for Beaufort, Pine Knoll Shores and Swansboro, as well as a regional plan.

“Now we’ve been added to that list,” she said. “There’s a lot of effort in the area to address nonpoint source pollution.”

Now that Atlantic Beach’s plan has received DEQ endorsement, town staff is looking ahead to the 319 grant schedule. Ms. Eitner said the state will issue a request for proposals in late January.

“We have until early May to submit (applications),” she said.

Staff already has some ideas on projects for which to seek grants. In a follow-up News-Times interview Monday, Ms. Eitner said these ideas aren’t for specific projects, but focus on general stormwater drainage issues.

“There’s a lot of retrofits that can be addressed around town,” she said.

Retrofits are projects that add stormwater infiltration features to pre-existing construction, improving the area’s ability to allow stormwater to soak into the ground and filter out pollutants.

“One of these is permeable pavement,” Ms. Eitner said, a type of pavement that allows stormwater to flow through, rather than wash over the top.

Early forms of permeable pavement had problems with sand clogging it, requiring regular maintenance, but Ms. Eitner said newer types don’t have this problem as much.

Other types of retrofits town officials are considering include underground infiltration infrastructure and bio-swales.

Ms. Eitner said staff doesn’t have any cost estimates on any of these projects, since they haven’t decided which retrofit projects to pursue.

“There are a lot of grant opportunities with the federal and state governments,” she said. “Each project will depend on what the grant is looking for.”

Even if the town doesn’t receive a grant, officials may choose to fund projects locally. Ms. Eitner said as of Monday, the council has already funded about $2 million in stormwater drainage infrastructure.

“We’re not stranger to putting our money where our mouth is,” she said.

Town officials partnered with the N.C. Coastal Federation, GPI Engineering and the Eastern Carolina Council of Governments to create the watershed restoration and stormwater resilience plan. The federation said in a press release Monday that after the year-long, collaborative planning effort, “the town is now position to better tackle the plaguing issue of stormwater runoff.”

“One of the goals was to prioritize cost-effective stormwater reduction projects and increase community awareness and support for reducing runoff,” NCCF deputy director Lauren Kolodij said in the release.

GPI engineer and consultant Jonathan Hinkle said in the release the intent of the plan is to “turn back the clock to mimic the natural hydrology of Atlantic Beach and increase infiltration of the rain.”

“Increasing the infiltration of stormwater will not only improve water quality, but also improve the town’s stormwater resilience,” he said.


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