CHARLESTON — In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, the Carolinas are getting $400,000 to evaluate offshore sand deposits that could be used to routinely rebuild beaches or help the coast recover if another severe storm hits.
The funds from the federal Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management are part of $13.6 million Congress allocated to the agency after the destructive October 2012 storm smashed into New Jersey.
Similar projects to gauge sand resources in federal waters three nautical miles and farther offshore are planned along the entire Eastern Seaboard, Connie Gillette, a spokeswoman for the federal agency, said Thursday.
“As a result of the damage after Superstorm Sandy, it just makes sense to identify sand that is out there for current needs and also for future needs,” she said. Areas closer than three miles offshore are considered to be in state waters.
In South Carolina, the federal agency reached an agreement last week to work with the state Department of Natural Resources. In North Carolina, the two-year agreement is with researchers at East Carolina University.
The first part of the work involves gathering existing ocean mapping data from diverse sources.
“Our job is to find out what data has been collected already and make an inventory of that,” said J.P. Walsh, an associate professor in the Department of Geological Sciences at East Carolina University who also works with the University of North Carolina Coastal Studies Institute.
He said such data may have been compiled by government agencies, independent researchers and private companies that have helped beachside with shore renourishment projects.
Once the known data is available for the East Coast, planners will know which areas might need to be surveyed in a second phase of the project.
“Our effort will be to find out what data is available and based on that what is lacking and give them an idea where we should collect data” off North Carolina, he said.
“The results of this study will help sustain our unique coastline and help to support the substantial positive economic impact the coastline has on the state,” Ken Rentiers, the deputy director of the Land, Water & Conservation Division of South Carolina DNR said in a statement.
Ultimately, officials said, knowing where sand deposits are will help states and local communities both maintain their beaches and help them recover after they are battered by storms.