Breakwater project OK’d

Published 5:54 pm Wednesday, April 16, 2008

By Staff
Federal government providingmajority of project’s funding
Staff Writer
BELHAVEN — A visit to Washington, D.C., by town officials helped secure funding for the town’s breakwater project.
The budget for the breakwater was OK’d by John Paul Woodley, assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, after Mayor Adam O’Neal and Guinn Leverett, interim town manager, met with him to lobby for federal support of the project. The outcome of that lobbying effort was reported at the Town Council’s meeting Monday.
The project, which calls for building a new breakwater at Belhaven’s harbor, is divided in to three phases — feasibility study, design and construction. The feasibility study will be conducted during the next 12 months or so by the Army Corps of Engineers.
The study will cost $365,000, with funding divided between federal, state and local revenue sources. At the federal level, the Corps of Engineers will provide $230,000 for the study. The N.C. Division of Water Resources will provide $67,500. Belhaven taxpayers will provide the remaining $67,500 “to get the ball rolling,” according to O’Neal.
The breakwater project had been at a stand-still because a moratorium had been placed on cost-share feasibility studies by the federal government.
With the moratorium lifted, O’Neal and Leverett met with the staffs of Congressman Walter B. Jones and Sen. Elizabeth Dole in Washington, D.C.
O’Neal and Leverett made a presentation to the delegates, stressing the immediate need for a new breakwater for Belhaven’s harbor.
To demonstrate the need for immediate action at the federal level for the project, O’Neal and Leverett produced a fictional account of a boating accident caused by the existing breakwater.
Dole had an overly emotional reaction to the article, according to O’Neal.
Although the article was fictionalized, O’Neal believes such an accident occurring is a possibility.
Leverett used first-hand knowledge of the breakwater to convince the delegates a new one is needed.
Woodley met briefly with O’Neal and Leverett.
Woodley approved the breakwater project’s budget, O’Neal said.
The estimated cost of the project is $3.32 million, but the cost could rise to about $4 million by the time the project is completed, according to town officials.
Belhaven and the Division of Water Resources will split state and local costs for phase two and phase three of the project, with the state funding 80 percent of the costs and the town funding 20 percent.
Costs could rise by the time construction is completed because of zoning permits required for the project.
To help with the permitting process, the town will rely on the Corps of Engineers.
If the feasibility study is completed without any setbacks, O’Neal and Leverett plan a return visit next year to the nation’s capital.