Belhaven receives breakwater grant

Published 8:04 pm Sunday, May 10, 2009

By Staff
$3.25 million will be used to replace crumbling structure
Contributing Editor
Belhaven is getting $3.25 million to replace the deteriorated breakwater in its harbor, town officials announced Friday.
The money will be used to design and build a new breakwater. Belhaven, a major stop on the Intracoastal Waterway, has a rich maritime and commercial-fishing history.
Mayor Adam O’Neal credited support from the Town Council, town residents and federal officials for helping secure the federal funding, which could result in construction on the project starting this fall. O’Neal said the project is the most-important project his administration has undertaken.
The federal fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.
A visit last spring to Washington, D.C., by town officials helped secure funding for the project. Before that visit, the project had been at a stand-still because a moratorium had been placed on cost-share feasibility studies by the federal government.
The project concept was approved by John Paul Woodley, assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, after O’Neal and Guinn Leverett, then the interim town manager, met with him to lobby for federal support of the project.
The project was divided into three phases — feasibility study, design and construction. The feasibility study was conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers.
As the study progressed, the Corps of Engineers awarded a $750,000 grant to the town to pay for stabilizing the breakwater’s most-fragile parts and reduce the amount of debris from the breakwater that enters the harbor.
The study focused on replacing the chemically-treated timber breakwater with a more environmentally appropriate concrete structure. The breakwater was built in 1940.
In February, O’Neal and Leverett, now the town manager, returned to the nation’s capital to lobby Congress for federal funds to pay for the design and construction phases of the project. That lobbying effort paid off Friday.
O’Neal cited Danny Daniels, a former Belhaven resident, for supporting the town’s efforts by helping pay for one of the trips town officials made to Washington, D.C. The mayor said assistance provided by Chris Wall, an aide to Sen. Richard Burr, and support from former Sen. Elizabeth Dole were instrumental in the town finding the support it needed in the nation’s capital.
For years, the wooden wall that extends most of the way across the mouth of Pantego Creek has been deteriorating without any major emphasis placed on its replacement or repair, O’Neal told Beaufort County commissioners last June.
Because of neglect, the breakwater’s condition has reached the point where it offers little protection for the town and pieces that break off of the aging structure are endangering boaters, the mayor said.
The commissioners adopted a resolution asking the Corps of Engineers to put the project on a fast track.
That same month, the Hyde County Board of Commissioners adopted a similar resolution.