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WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC (WWAY) — Beaches are a huge economic engine for our area, but they need constant maintenance and repair. Today we got a look at how that happens.

“We are changing the face of the earth,” said Capt. Jack Dunbar, who has worked in dredging for 34 years.

“Basically, it’s just a big piece of equipment that takes material from one place to another place, wherever you want it to be,” he said. “All the dredging we used to call, we are just a big vacuum sucking from here and putting it there.”

Dredging not only brings sand back to our shores, but it also helps protect our beaches against damaging storms.

“Anybody that sat through Hurricane Fran or Hurricane Hugo or any hurricane on the coast, have seen the beaches that have storm damage reduction projects constructed have less damage than those who have not,” said Bob Keistler, Army Corps of Engineers Project Manager.

But with a price tag of $9 million for this project at Wrightsville Beach alone, this is not cheap sand.

“Just to maintain this equipment in this environment is very costly, and your employees, but mostly maintaining the equipment and fuel,” Dunbar said.

Keistler says even though dredging is costly, it’s worth it.

“For every dollar we put in the project to build the beach, it turns back in tenfold, twentyfold and savings on damages and that kind of stuff,” Keistler said.

Keistler says dredging sometimes impacts turtle and bird habitats, so he says they hope to finish dredging at Wrightsville Beach by Memorial Day.

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