CAMAgram - Fall 2003
CAMA emergency general permit can help speed up storm recovery
Property owners along coastal sounds, rivers and creeks who need to replace structures that were severely damaged by Hurricane Isabel may be able to do so under an emergency general permit offered by the Division of Coastal Management.
The permit may be used to rebuild houses, docks, piers, bulkheads and similar structures. It also may be used for beach bulldozing to rebuild dunes, and for maintenance excavation of existing basins and channels as part of hurricane recovery. The permit cannot be used to replace oceanfront structures.
There is no cost for the permit, which may be used in the following counties: Beaufort, Bertie, Camden, Carteret, Chowan, Craven, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hertford, Hyde, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Tyrrell and Washington. It also can be used for work along the White Oak River bank in Onslow County.
If the permit is used for rebuilding structures, the structure must not exceed the original footprint and the use must remain the same.
Secretary Bill Ross of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources activated the emergency general permit after Hurricane Isabel struck North Carolina in September. It is the first activation of the permit since the Coastal Resources Commission adopted it three years ago. Previously, the CRC enacted emergency measures by adopting temporary rules following hurricanes.
“Coastal Management and the CRC created this permit so that coastal property owners could begin recovering more quickly,” said Donna Moffit, Coastal Management’s director.
Property owners have until March 22 to obtain the emergency general permit. Work authorized under the permit must be completed by Sept. 22, 2004.
The permit does not eliminate the need to obtain any other required state, local or federal authorization.
The emergency general permit may not be appropriate in all circumstances, particularly when the work would be inconsistent with current rules, said Charles Jones, Coastal Management’s assistant director for permits and enforcement. In such cases, regular permitting procedures will apply.
Here’s how property owners can help Coastal Management review their permit request as quickly as possible:
Property owners with questions can call their local Coastal Management office: Elizabeth City, 252-264-3901; Morehead City, 252-808-2808; Washington, 252-946-6481.
Hurricane delays CRC vote on updated erosion rates, setback factors
Hurricane Isabel forced the Coastal Resources Commission to postpone voting on a proposal to incorporate updated long-term average annual erosion rates into the state’s oceanfront development rules.
The CRC could have voted on the proposal at its October meeting. But the hurricane’s threat led Division of Coastal Management officials to postpone two of the eight public hearings on the proposal until November. The rescheduled hearings will take place Nov. 4 at Coastal Management’s district office at 127 Cardinal Drive Ext., in Wilmington, and Nov. 6 at the Brunswick County Courthouse, 310 Government Center Drive, in Bolivia. Both hearings will begin at 7 p.m.
The CRC could vote on the erosion rate proposal at its January meeting. To learn more about the proposal, go towww.nccoastalmanagement.net/Facts/rates.htm.
Isabel exposes dangers of ground-level construction on Outer Banks
The conflict between nature and homebuyer desire for bigger beach houses came to a head on Hatteras Island during Hurricane Isabel.
Waves from the storm hammered ground-level playrooms, garages and other amenities, causing significant damage. The kicker was that the houses weren’t older cottages, but newer homes built within the past few years.
“The newer and grander buildings were damaged, and the older ones weren’t,” said Spencer Rogers, a specialist in coastal construction with North Carolina Sea Grant who is a member of the Coastal Resources Advisory Council. He recently worked on a survey of storm damage for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state.
The trend toward building oceanfront houses with rooms at lower elevations troubles Rogers. “It was disappointing to me to see us take a step backwards, for whatever reasons, in new construction (on Hatteras Island),” he said recently by telephone from his office in Wilmington.
A spate of hurricanes in the 1950s and the Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962 prompted North Carolina to enact standards to make buildings more hurricane-resistant. The standards required buildings within 150 feet of the ocean to be on pilings 1 ½ feet above the highest known watermark.
Even though people could build lower to the ground depending on the local flood maps, many chose to build houses on pilings with parking underneath.
“We have this history of building on piling foundations, which are highly flood- and wave-resistant,” Rogers said. “It changed the perception of a beach house for most people in North Carolina.”
In the 1990s, that perception was altered as homebuyers sought more floor space. Homebuilders obliged consumer demand, and the average house size increased from 2,500 square feet to 4,000 square feet. Building bigger meant including ground floors, despite evidence that base flood elevations depicted on the maps for Hatteras Island were too low.
In 1993, Hurricane Emily had passed 20 miles east of Cape Hatteras, causing flooding and wind damage. “Most watermarks were roughly a foot above the flood map elevations,” Rogers said.
The lower-level rooms that were built in subsequent years became targets for Isabel’s waves, putting the entire house at risk. “There was at least one collapse (of a house) when the lowest floor buckled,” Rogers said.
A 2-foot increase in flood elevation may not have avoided all of the wave damage that Isabel caused, he said. “However, it was clear from the building damage that much of the wave damage was no more than 2 feet above the floor levels of the new buildings.”
Since Hurricane Floyd in 1999, the state has been working to develop new maps that more accurately depict flood levels.
Will the damage caused by Isabel make people think twice about building homes with ground-level floors?
“It remains to be seen,” Rogers said.
DCM awards nearly $1.5 million in local government grants for access projects
The Division of Coastal Management has awarded nearly $1.5 million to 19 local governments for projects to improve public access to coastal beaches and waters for the 2003-04 fiscal year.
The $1,496,000 is the most that Coastal Management has ever awarded under the Public Beach and Coastal Waterfront Access Program. The program provides matching funds to local governments in the 20 coastal counties. Grants are awarded each fall. Governments that receive grants must match them by contributing at least 25 percent toward the project cost.
Funding for the grant program comes from the General Assembly through the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund. The fund receives its money from land-transfer fees.
“Local governments continue to show a tremendous interest in providing and improving public access to North Carolina’s beaches and waters,” said Steve Underwood, Coastal Management’s assistant director for policy and planning. “We are happy to help them as much as we can.”
The division awarded grants to New Hanover and Pasquotank counties and the following towns or cities: Ahoskie, Bridgeton, Caswell Beach, Emerald Isle, Hertford, Holden Beach, Indian Beach, Kure Beach, Manteo, Nags Head, North Topsail Beach, Oak Island, Ocean Isle Beach, Surf City, Swansboro, Topsail Beach and Washington.
Access projects may include walkways, dune crossovers, restrooms, parking areas, piers and related facilities. Funds also may be used for land acquisition or urban waterfront revitalization. Coastal Management staff selected the recipients based on criteria set by the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission.
The grant program has funded more than 280 public waterfront access sites since it began in 1981.
Seawall ban becomes law
North Carolina’s longtime ban on oceanfront seawalls is now law.
Senate leader Marc Basnight of Manteo successfully attached the ban to a bill that promoted alternative erosion control measures along coastal sounds, rivers and creeks. The bill added the seawall ban to the Coastal Area Management Act, the state law governing coastal development.
Gov. Mike Easley signed the ban into law in August. “If you like North Carolina’s beaches, you’ll love this bill,” Easley said at a State Capitol ceremony attended by lawmakers, coastal advocates, and staff from the Division of Coastal Management and Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Research has shown that seawalls and other hard structures, which are intended to fight erosion, can actually accelerate the loss of sand on beaches. The Coastal Resources Commission, through its administrative rules, had largely prohibited seawalls, jetties, groins and other permanent erosion control structures along the oceanfront since 1985.
“The commission appreciates Sen. Basnight’s assistance in this matter, as it strengthens our position in prohibiting seawalls,” CRC Chairman Gene Tomlinson said in a telephone interview. “This (bill) further ensures that our beaches, which are owned by the public, will remain available for the public to use.”
The bill bans all permanent erosion control structures except those that would be allowed under existing provisions in the CRC’s regulations. The ban also does not affect structures that were previously authorized, including the groin protecting Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet and the rock revetment in front of Fort Fisher State Recreation Area at Kure Beach.
The bill also contained a provision that would allow the CRC to renew a permit for a system of sandbag tubes on the south beach of Bald Head Island. The CRC granted the local government a variance for the tubes in 1995.
The seawall ban was part of a bill authorizing the CRC to adopt temporary and permanent rules to establish a general permit for the construction of riprap sills to enhance wetlands and protect non-ocean shorelines.
Sills are low rock structures placed parallel to the shoreline. Vegetation planted behind them will, over time, grow into wetlands. The wetlands filter runoff from the land and absorb wave energy. Currently, such projects require a CAMA major permit, which takes longer to issue than general permits.
Proponents of the bill said the shorter turnaround time for a general permit would encourage more people to use riprap sills instead of bulkheads to stabilize the shoreline. Advocates say bulkheads are not as environmentally friendly because they can cause erosion to increase in areas adjacent to them, which can destroy valuable marsh or shallow-bottom habitat.
The CRC’s Implementation and Standards Committee will discuss possible guidelines for the general permit at the commission’s October meeting in Wilmington, said Doug Huggett, Coastal Management’s major permits coordinator.
Permanent rules adopted to create general permit
Hurricane Isabel blew down or mangled up to 20 percent of the trees at the Emily and Richardson Preyer Buckridge Coastal Reserve near Columbia.
Younger stands of trees and thicker areas fared well, but older stands were “hit pretty bad,” said Woody Webster, the Buckridge site manager. He estimated that the storm damaged 15 percent to 20 percent of the trees at the reserve.
“It looks more like tornado damage than any one big wind,” Webster said. “You’ll have a localized area where every tree is down. Then you go nearby, and the trees are OK.”
The estimate does not include any tree damage on Roper Island, which also is part of the reserve. The island is across the Alligator River in Hyde County, and Webster has not had the opportunity to view damage there yet.
The downed trees block portions of all the roads leading to the site’s interior, hampering access, Webster said. He is working with personnel from the state Wildlife Resources Commission to clear the roads.
The storm also caused flooding along Buckridge’s eastern shoreline on the Alligator River, but not in the reserve’s interior, Webster said.
Isabel even deposited trees in the river. “You go across the river on a calm day and you see trees floating in it,” Webster said. “It’s not all that uncommon, but you see a lot more than usual."
The storm also brought another surprise for Webster. “I saw an alligator that I thought was a tree in the middle of the river,” he said. “A lot of things were displaced by the storm. You see more than you normally would.”
Five others discovered dead on Harkers Island
Three wild horses from the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve in Beaufort are back home after a visit to Shackleford Banks courtesy of Hurricane Isabel.
The horses – two mares and a colt – either swam or were swept more than a mile across Back Sound during the hurricane. National Park Service staff discovered them after the hurricane during a routine horse census at Cape Lookout National Seashore. They were sighted on the northwest edge of Shackleford, as close to Rachel Carson land as they could walk without getting their hooves wet.
One Shackleford bachelor stallion took the mares in as his harem for a time, while two stallions in the area chased the colt, said Sue Stuska, a wildlife biologist with the park service. They were not integrated into the Shackleford herd.
Staff from Rachel Carson and the park service safely transported the horses back to the reserve on Sept. 29. The three horses were darted with anesthetics, captured, lifted onto panels and taken by boat to Rachel Carson. They were placed in a pen and monitored during their recovery from the anesthetics. A state veterinarian examined the horses and found them to be healthy. The horses then rejoined the Rachel Carson herd.
It is the first time in recent memory that horses from the reserve have gone to Shackleford Banks, said John Taggart, manager of the N.C. Coastal Reserves.
“In the 20 years I’ve been here, the only time I’m aware of horses going from one place to another was, we had a horse go across Taylor’s Creek into Beaufort,” he said. “And we’ve had horses that have gone to Radio Island, but those distances are only a few hundred yards. This time the distance was more than a mile. This was an extreme event because of the storm.”
Five other horses believed to be from the Rachel Carson herd were not so lucky. They were found dead on Harkers Island after the storm. Harkers Island is east of the reserve across a series of marshes at the southern end of the North River. The local health department buried the horses on the island.
Horses normally huddle together in shrub thicket during storms, but the horses found on Harkers Island and Shackleford Banks may have been out in the marsh, where they were more vulnerable, Taggart said.
About 50 horses are in the herd, which is descended from domestic horses a doctor put on Carrot Island in the 1940s. Over time, the horses became wild.
It’s no surprise that the state’s recently completed plan for managing the Bird Island Coastal Reserve makes preservation of natural resources a priority. After all, that’s what the N.C. Coastal Reserve Program is all about.
In keeping with the program’s mission, the 1,200-acre site near Sunset Beach will be managed for use as a natural outdoor laboratory for research, education and traditional recreational uses, said John Taggart, manager of the Coastal Reserve Program.
Management of the island will involve coordination among state, county and local agencies, including the Bird Island Preservation Society. The nonprofit group worked for 10 years to preserve the island from development.
Coastal Reserve staff held a meeting with the public in September to introduce the plan and obtain feedback. Copies of the plan are available for review at Sunset Beach Town Hall, The Museum of Coastal Carolina at Ocean Isle Beach, the N.C. Coastal Reserve office in the UNC-Wilmington Center for Marine Science at 5600 Marvin Moss Lane, and the Division of Coastal Management’s office at 127 Cardinal Drive Ext. in Wilmington.
For information, contact Bob Stroud, reserve management specialist, at 910-962-2310 or Bob.Stroud@ncmail.net.
Now that the plan is complete, the next step is to set up a local advisory committee that will help guide the staff in managing the island, Stroud said.
Bird Island, located at the southwestern end of Sunset Beach, became the state’s 10th coastal reserve last year.
The Division of Coastal Management’s Wilmington office will participate in a pilot program to provide express reviews of certain environmental permits and certifications.
Under the program, permit applicants can choose to pay higher fees for a faster review of their applications. It will cover Coastal Area Management Act major permits issued by DCM, sedimentation and erosion control permits issued by the Division of Land Resources, and stormwater permits, water-quality and stream-origination certifications issued by the Division of Water Quality.
If a project required all of these permits and certifications, the fees could total $5,500. Normally, fees for CAMA major permits range from $250 to $400, and reviews take an average of 72 days.
The state budget contained $500,000 in one-time funding for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to create up to eight positions to work on the pilot program, which should get under way in November. DENR administrators expect the program to be fully supported by permit fees in the future.
The Coastal Resources Commission could decide soon whether to change the quarterly meeting schedule it and the Coastal Resources Advisory Council have followed for the past two years.
A committee composed of CRC and CRAC members and Division of Coastal Management staff will present recommendations to the commission at its October meeting in Wilmington.
Responding to the state’s budget problems, the CRC voted in 2001 to reduce its number of meetings each year from six to four. The commission agreed to stick to that schedule for two years. The reduced meeting schedule saves the state at least $20,000 annually in travel and meeting-room costs.
The cost-cutting measures also involved moving CRAC meetings from the day before the CRC meeting to the same day. CRAC members have criticized this schedule, saying that the concurrent meetings prevent them from participating fully in the CRC sessions.
At its July meeting, the CRC voted to continue the quarterly schedule through the end of the year while the committee considers options.
The Coastal Resources Commission has appointed two Brunswick County residents to vacant seats on the Coastal Resources Advisory Council.
At its July meeting, the CRC appointed Oak Island resident Dara Royal and Caswell Beach Mayor Harry Simmons to represent coastal cities on the CRAC. They were selected from a field of candidates nominated by local governments. The appointees will serve at the pleasure of the CRC.
The CRAC is a 45-member group that provides the CRC with local government perspectives and technical advice. Members represent coastal counties and cities, regional councils of government and state agencies.
Royal, a Fayetteville native, has lived on Oak Island since 1992. She is founder of both the Oak Island Adopt-a-Beach Access Program and the Oak Island Beach Preservation Society. She was the first chair of the Oak Island Stormwater Advisory Board and served on the town’s Erosion Control Committee.
Simmons is in the fourth year of his first term as mayor of Caswell Beach. He recently was elected president of the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association. He serves as chairman of the Brunswick Beaches Consortium and is executive director of the N.C. Shore and Beach Preservation Association. Simmons also is a member of the board of directors of the N.C. League of Municipalities.
More than 500 people attended a series of meetings this summer to learn about – and give their opinion on – the state’s Coastal Habitat Protection Plan.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is devising the plan, known as CHPP, to protect critical marine habitats. The plan is scheduled to be completed next year.
Meeting participants made a variety of suggestions, including:
The public will have another opportunity to review and comment on the plan at meetings next year.
State legislators in 1997 enacted a law to protect and enhance coastal habitats that are critical to fish and shellfish. To achieve that goal, the law requires the Environmental Management, Coastal Resources and Marine Fisheries commissions to work together to prepare and adopt plans that protect and restore these critical habitats and to enact rules to implement the plans.
The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries has taken the lead in formulating the CHPP. The agency has been working since 1999 with the Division of Coastal Management and several other state and federal agencies on the framework of the first plan, which examines the six critical marine habitats coast-wide. Later plans will examine those habitats in 11 geographic regions that closely follow coastal watershed boundaries.
The CHPP will be a detailed document that describes the habitats and includes scientific information on their ecological function and importance to marine species. It will also identify the threats to each habitat and recommend needed research, regulatory and non-regulatory steps that should be taken to protect and enhance each habitat.
Drafting of the CHPP is under way. The schedule calls for the commissions to adopt the final plan at the end of 2004. All components of the CHPP are supposed to be updated every five years.
To learn more about the CHPP, call Marine Fisheries at 1-800-682-2632 or go online to www.ncfisheries.net/habitat/chpp1.htm.
Local government planners and others interested in the state’s variety of wetlands data can now download it from the Division of Coastal Management’s Web site.
The staff has added shapefiles for wetlands data, potential restoration sites, and the N.C. Coastal Region Evaluation of Wetland Significance (NC-CREWS). The Web site contains the data for 37 counties in the inner and outer coastal plains of North Carolina.
The files can be downloaded into a geographic information system (GIS) software application, such as ArcInfo or ArcView.
The staff also has added technical documents about Coastal Management’s GIS wetlands data to the Web site.
Adding the data to the Web will make it easier for planners and environmental consultants to get it, said Josh Shepherd, Coastal Management’s information technology manager.
Previously, staff had to put the data on CDs and mail them to people who requested the information. “Putting this information on the Web is a faster, less expensive and more efficient way of delivering it to the people who need it,” Shepherd said.
When Hurricane Isabel hit the North Carolina coast in September, many sand dunes were eroded, and dune vegetation was washed away.
Because of the protection provided by dunes, property owners may want to rebuild them, says Spencer Rogers, coastal construction and erosion specialist with North Carolina Sea Grant.
“The Dune Book” by Rogers and N.C. Cooperative Extension agent David Nash describes the benefits of dunes and dune vegetation, as well as the best dune management practices along developed shorelines where people, buildings and roads are already in place.
“A principal benefit for anyone living near the shoreline is that a dune acts as a storage reservoir for sand,” Rogers said. “The larger the dune, the more time it takes to be eroded by the waves, and the more protection it provides to areas farther landward. However, it is often misunderstood that dunes do not provide protection from seasonal beach fluctuations, long-term erosion or inlet erosion – no matter how large the dune.”
To help people understand erosion, the authors explain how the beach works, including the different erosion types: seasonal fluctuations, storm-induced erosion, long-term erosion and inlet erosion.
The comprehensive guide also describes how to select and plant the best dune grasses for the North Carolina coast and provides tips and colorful illustrations on the most common dune species.
Nash said effective dune building involves the installation of healthy local dune plants that are adapted to the climate. “Failure to plant deep enough is the main cause of new plant death on the dunes,” he said. “Also, be certain to plant dune plants at the correct depth, the recommended times and under conditions appropriate for each species.”
In addition, the authors provide information on sand fences, dune walkways and beach scraping.
To order “The Dune Book,” call 919-515-2454 or write: North Carolina Sea Grant, NCSU Box 8605, Raleigh, NC 27695-8605 and ask for UNC-SG-03-03. Single copies are $5, or copies can be downloaded from the Web at http://www.ncseagrant.org/files/dune_booklet.pdf.
Cindy Camacho has joined the Raleigh office as cumulative and secondary impacts analyst. She previously was assistant planning director for Beaufort, S.C.
Yvonne Carver has joined the Elizabeth City office as secretary. She previously worked for J.W. Jones Lumber Co. in Elizabeth City.
Doug Coker, information technologist with the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve in Beaufort, has been named education coordinator for the Coastal Reserve Program. He replaces Susan Lovelace, who left the program this summer.
Brian Long, public information officer in the Raleigh office, is leaving Coastal Management at the end of October. He will become the public affairs director for the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Stoney Mathis has joined the Wilmington office as a field representative. He previously was an environmental engineer with the Division of Water Quality.
Linda Painter has joined the Wilmington office as secretary. She previously was with the Division of Water Quality.
James Rosich, district planner in the Wilmington office, has left Coastal Management to pursue additional academic study.
John Thayer, district planner in the Elizabeth City office, has been named interim manager of planning and public access, succeeding Kathy Vinson, who retired this summer.
Kelly Williams, wetlands specialist in the Raleigh office, has left to join the staff of the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program. She also is the proud mother of a baby boy, Evan, born in August.
Legislation that recognizes the national, state and local tax revenues produced by beach tourism has been introduced in the U.S. Senate. The National Beach Recreation and Economic Benefits Act would require the Army Corps of Engineers to give recreational benefits of beaches the same weight as storm-reduction benefits when studying the feasibility of proposed nourishment projects. The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii. Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Texas, introduced a similar bill in the House. …
Rep. Clay Shaw, R-Fla., has introduced a bill that expands Section 204 of the Water Resources Development Act to include projects to place beach-quality sand obtained from navigation or flood control projects on beaches or in nearshore disposal areas. It also modifies an existing cost-share program to encourage these types of projects. …
The Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program will compile an inventory of marine managed areas in North Carolina. Carleigh Trappe, a graduate student at Duke University, will compile the information. She is working for the APNEP under an internship funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Bill Crowell, director of the APNEP, said the inventory would be useful for One North Carolina Naturally, the state’s land and water conservation initiative. …
The federal government has approved the Town of Caswell Beach to receive the Oak Island Lighthouse and five acres of adjacent oceanfront land at no cost to the town. “Our community is identified and symbolized by this grand structure, and we look forward to ensuring that it remains an icon for generations to come,” Mayor Harry Simmons said. The Federal Lands To Parks Program of the National Park Service provides for the transfer of surplus federal property to communities who agree to use the property for public parks and recreation. The U.S. Coast Guard intends to continue operating the distinctive light atop the tower for the foreseeable future. …
Bodie Island Light Station on the Outer Banks has joined five other North Carolina lighthouses on the National Register of Historic Places. The designation means that any changes to the lighthouse property are subject to review by the State Historic Preservation Office. …
The National Park Service is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Cape Hatteras National Seashore this year. The second of two anniversary events was scheduled to take place in mid-October on Ocracoke Island, but Hurricane Isabel forced its postponement until next spring, said Mary Doll, a National Park Service spokeswoman. The first event was held in August at Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. The bill to acquire and permanently protect more than 70 miles of Outer Banks coastline was introduced by North Carolina congressman Lindsay Warren and became law during the summer of 1937. On Jan. 17, 1953, Interior Secretary Oscar L. Chapman signed a Secretarial Order ensuring Cape Hatteras National Seashore would be preserved and protected forever. …
The N.C. Department of Transportation has helped triple the size of a Brunswick County park. The department recently transferred an additional 34 acres of property to the county for use at the John D. Long Memorial Park on N.C. 133 near Belville. The 11.5-acre park, which borders the Brunswick River, includes a boat ramp, shoreline fishing areas and picnic tables. …
Currituck County officials plan to spend $4 million for 10 acres of land within the Corolla Shores subdivision near Currituck Sound. The purchase is part of the county’s land-banking program.