DCM Accomplishments in 2012
- The N.C. Coastal Resources Commission and the Division of Coastal Management moved forward with a number of rules intended to streamline regulatory requirements for certain types of coastal development. These rule amendments include changes to the CRC’s sandbag rules that will increase time limits and frequency of use for sandbag structures in certain areas; reduced sediment criteria sampling requirements for beach nourishment projects; a change in the formula used to calculate the Ocean Erodible Area of Environmental Concern; an update of long-term average annual erosion rates; and grandfathered setback requirements for oceanfront residential structures of more than 5,000 square feet.
- Provided assistance to coastal residents recovering from Hurricane Irene by issuing nearly 1,000 CAMA emergency permits for rebuilding docks, piers, boathouses, bulkheads and other structures. Recognizing that many property owners were unable to complete repairs by the designated date due to difficulties in securing contractors or insurance settlements, the division extended the deadline by which the work must be performed by 120 days.
- Provided assistance to property owners recovering from Hurricane Sandy by issuing 83 CAMA emergency permits for beach bulldozing and opening an emergency field office to assist homeowners in the Outer Banks.
- The N.C. Coastal Resources Commission approved an update of the long-term average annual oceanfront erosion rates for the N.C. coast. Improvements in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology allowed Division of Coastal Management staff to perform the update in-house for the first time, for a cost savings of about $250,000. DCM uses long-term average annual erosion rates in determining setback distances for oceanfront development. The rates are expected to be effective in early 2013.
- Continued dedicated efforts to respond to the CHPP public hearing comments of “better enforcement of existing rules.” DCM’s regulatory and compliance staff continued to monitor permitted projects, conduct routine aerial surveillance flights, and provide compliance assistance support to the public. More than 2,000 compliance monitoring inspections and more than 1,500 permit inspections were performed. The division had a 96 percent compliance rate of inspected permitted facilities, one of the highest of the DENR regulatory divisions.
- Conducted training workshops for local permit officers in the coastal municipalities and counties that have a locally adopted implementation and enforcement Coastal Area Management Act program.
- Through a partnership with East Carolina University, completed the first-ever digital map of North Carolina’s more than 12,000 miles of estuarine shoreline, and associated structures. Using the most recently available aerial photography for each county, the estuarine shoreline for all 20 coastal counties was digitized using GIS software, and structures such as bulkheads, piers and docks were identified. DCM and ECU staff will continue working together to conduct a more in-depth analysis of the shoreline data, including calculating the length of the five distinct shoreline types and the different types of modified shorelines. They will also work to identify regional shoreline development trends and analyze the distribution of various coastal structures.
- Certified six new Clean Marinas in coastal North Carolina and recertified 10 marinas as part of the division’s continuing effort to protect coastal water quality by assisting marinas and boatyards in protecting our environment through the use of best management and operation practices.
- Registered 102 Clean Boaters as part of the division’s new Clean Boater Program. Boaters commit to clean boating by signing a pledge to protect North Carolina’s coastal waters, and receive a Clean Boater sticker from DCM to place on their vessel.
- Completed the Coastal Reserve’s collaborative project “Sustainable estuarine shoreline stabilization: research, education, and public policy in North Carolina” with NOAA and University partners and funded by the Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology (CICEET). Research results indicate that natural marshes provide higher levels of ecosystem services than marshes associated with bulkheads; and that small, narrow fringing marshes in front of bulkheads are still capable of providing important ecosystem services compared to bulkhead sites with no marsh. As part of this project, an alternative shoreline stabilization demonstration project was installed on the east end of the Rachel Carson Reserve. Outreach activities effectively reached target stakeholders and are ongoing.
- Established three sentinel sites at the Rachel Carson, Masonboro Island, and Zeke’s Island components of the N.C. National Estuarine Research Reserve to measure change in coastal habitats related to sea level rise and inundation.
- Reached more than 2,300 students, teachers, local government officials, coastal decision makers, and other members of the coastal community through workshops, reserve site field trips, summer camps, and other educational activities conducted by the staff of the N.C. Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve. Participants learned about the importance of estuaries, environmental stewardship, estuarine shoreline stabilization alternatives, low impact development, and research conducted at reserve sites. The Reserve program also utilized community and student volunteers in a variety of stewardship activities across the ten Reserve sites, from clean-ups to species monitoring, resulting in more than 1,200 hours of service to the program.