Belhaven fought hard for breakwater

Published 11:14 am Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Special to the Daily News

A nearly $3 million breakwater project to protect Belhaven’s harbor is under way.
Sam Stone with Florida-based Inland Construction and Equipment is overseeing the project to replace the town’s aged 4,000-foot-long breakwater. The breakwater will be 5 feet above sea level, or 18 inches higher than the old breakwater, which was built in the 1930s. It’s deteriorated since.
Under terms of the project contract, ICE was given 375 days to complete the project. ICE submitted the winning bid for the project last October. ICE mobilized in Belhaven in April, beginning work on the project in May.
Breakwater sections — longer and thicker than sections in the old breakwater — are built on land. After being transported by barges, they are placed in the water. Section lengths, made with marine-treated lumber, vary in length.
Stone stated that project is progressing well.
“Things are scheduled to be finished on time. We are driving about 200 feet of the wall each week. We are meeting the production levels I expected,” he said.
Stone is using mostly local workers with construction backgrounds for the project.
Mayor Adam O’Neal and town officials lobbied federal officials in Washington, D.C., for project funding. They believe the fact that funding for the project was secured is a remarkable feat. The project was listed 19th on informal list of priorities set by the state government. Cities such as Wilmington and Morehead City handle more tonnage through their harbors than Belhaven, the officials said.
O’Neal explained that getting federal funding for the project depended largely on how well the town made its case in the nation’s capital.
“We cited mainly safety concerns, and I think that got their attention. Senators Burr and Dole were then very interested in the project. The assistant secretary of the Army for public works also kept bringing the project up.”
Project funding came through in the Army Corps of Engineers’ budget for fiscal year 2009. The town was not required to provide matching funds for the project. Thus, the town was saved a estimated $300,00 to $400,000.
O’Neal hopes that the breakwater will improve the overall image of the town.
“The wall we had before was the face of the town to the boating public. So, the face of the town was missing teeth. But we have fixed that now. Now when boats come through, we don’t look like a town that is disrepair.”
The original breakwater wall came through the River and Harbor Act of 1937 to prevent town flooding. The cost of that project was estimated at $53,000.