CAMAgram - Spring 2009
N.C. Coastal Reserve Program celebrates 20th anniversary in June
In June 1989, the North Carolina General Assembly created the North Carolina Coastal Reserve Program to acquire, improve and maintain undeveloped coastal land and water areas in a natural state.
The legislation establishing the reserve program asserted that “the coastal area of North Carolina contains a number of important undeveloped natural areas. These areas are vital to continued fishery and wildlife protection, water quality maintenance and improvement, preservation of unique and important coastal natural areas, aesthetic enjoyment, and public trust rights such as hunting, fishing, navigation and recreation. Such land and water areas are necessary for the preservation of estuarine areas of the state, constitute important research facilities, and provide public access to waters of the state.”
Twenty years later, that seemingly simple act of legislation has led to the preservation of more than 40,000 acres of unique environments on 10 coastal reserve sites along the entire length of our coast.Four of the sites are also part of NOAA’s National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRs), a federal program designed to improve coastal management and scientific understanding of the nation’s estuarine and coastal habitats.
From Currituck Banks in the north, to Bird Island on our southern border, North Carolina’s coastal reserve system has become an unparalleled resource for education, research and stewardship of these precious and irreplaceable habitats.
Help us celebrate the reserve program’s 20th anniversary by getting to know some of North Carolina’s most beautiful and unspoiled places—visit one (or more!) of our 10 reserve sites and discover some of our coastal treasures:
Currituck Banks National Estuarine Research Reserve — Just north of Corolla in Currituck County, this reserve features 960 acres of beach, dune, maritime forest and marsh. It is accessible by four-wheel-drive vehicles. Visitors to the site enjoy hiking trails and a 2,000-foot boardwalk.
Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve — An 1,800-acre complex of maritime forest and wetlands, this site features isolated swamp forests dominated by bald cypress.
Buxton Woods Coastal Reserve— This 968-acre portion of the largest remaining maritime forest in the state is located near Buxton on Hatteras Island.
Rachel Carson National Estuarine Research Reserve — This 2,600-acre complex, featuring a herd of wild horses, is located near Beaufort in Carteret County and is accessible only by boat. During the summer, staff and volunteers lead daily field trips through the site.
Permuda Island Coastal Reserve — Located near Topsail Island in Onslow County, this reserveprotects a 50-acre island and valuable shellfish waters in Stump Sound.
Masonboro Island National Estuarine Research Reserve — Located between Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach in New Hanover County, this 5,000-acre pristine barrier island/estuarine complex is accessible only by boat.
Zeke’s Island National Estuarine Research Reserve— Located south of Fort Fisher in New Hanover County and featuring 1,200-acres of barrier island and marsh bordered by a rock jetty, this site has access by a public boat ramp and an off-road vehicle trail.
Bald Head Woods Coastal Reserve — Located on north central Bald Head Island, this 173-acre preserve is distinguished by the presence of cabbage palmetto trees, which are not found in other North Carolina maritime forests.
Emily & Richardson Preyer Buckridge Reserve¾ Located near the Alligator River in Tyrrell County, this site features more than 26,000 acres of sprawling swamp forest, making it the largest of the 10 coastal reserves.
Bird Island Coastal Reserve¾ Located near Sunset Beach in Brunswick County, this site features nearly 1,300 acres of marsh, wetlands and sandy beach. It is accessible by foot from Sunset Beach, and by boat from the Little River Inlet in South Carolina and from the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.
For more information on North Carolina’s Coastal Reserve Program, please visitwww.nccoastalreserve.net.
Several bills have been introduced in the current legislative session that directly or indirectlyaffect the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission. The following bills are still in consideration following the May 14 crossover deadline:
SB 524: Disapprove Coastal Setback Rule (Sen. Boseman)
Disapproves amendments to NCAC 07H .0306 (increased setbacks for large oceanfront structures) as amended by the CRC in November 2008.
SB 778: Eliminate Overlap Between CAMA and SEPA (Sen. Soles)
Exempts the requirement for a State Environmental Protection Act document for projects that are subject to the Coastal Area Management Act’s major development permits.
SB 832: CRC May Permit Terminal Groin (Sen. Boseman)
Allows the CRC to permit, via variance or through rulemaking, a terminal groin in any suitable area of the North Carolina coast. Permit applications must include an environmental impact statement; CRC may require financial assurance to cover the cost of removal should the CRC determine the terminal groin has an adverse impact on other properties.
SB 866 (=HB 1230): APA Rules: Increasing Costs Prohibition (Sen. Hoyle)
Prohibits an agency from adopting a rule that results in additional costs to persons subject to the rule, unless the rule is adopted in response to a serious and unforeseen threat, an act of the General Assembly or Congress, a change in state or federal budgetary policy, a federal regulation, or a court order.
SB 998: Moratorium on Sandbag Structures (Sen. Jenkins)
As introduced, this bill imposes a moratorium on sandbag enforcement, prohibiting the CRC from ordering the removal of sandbag structures in communities actively pursuing beach nourishment or inlet relocation projects. The bill requires DENR to conduct a study of temporary erosion control structures and submit its findings to the state legislature.
HB 736: Grant Funds/Relocate Condemn Water Structure (Rep. Spear)
Allows the state Division of Water Resources to award grants to local governments to relocate imminently threatened oceanfront structures.
HB 1378: Clean Marinas/Pumpout Stations (Rep. McComas)
Requires full service marinas (with 10 or more slips) in communities seeking a “no discharge zone” designation to install a pumpout facility by July 1, 2010. Prohibits discharge into coastal waters and requires vessel operators to keep pumpout logs. Directs DENR to establish criteria for pumpout facilities and services.
N.C. Coastal Management Conducts Training for 75 Local Permit Officers
DCM recently conducted two training workshops for local permit officers in the 20 coastal counties. Seventy-five LPOs attended the workshops in Wilmington and Nags Head. Local permit officers work directly for coastal local governments and process CAMA minor permits through an agreement with the Division of Coastal Management.
“This is the best-attended training session DCM has ever conducted, which is a testament to how valuable these sessions are,” said Ted Tyndall, DCM’s assistant director for permits and enforcement. “They are an important way for us to work directly with local governments to provide both field training and guidance on coastal management issues.”
Cooperative state and local government programs were an important component of the original Coastal Area Management Act. Locally adopted implementation and enforcement plans allow local governments to process CAMA minor permits in-house, giving them an active role in the management of the coastal resources within their jurisdictions, as well as providing an additional public service to their citizens.
The agenda for the two-day workshops included updates on recent changes to Coastal Resources Commission rules and training in the permit process, as well as monitoring and enforcement. DCM staff also conducted interactive field training in staking Normal High Water and Normal Water Levels and identifying coastal wetlands.
N.C. Coastal Reserve and NOAA Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research awarded grant for shoreline erosion study
The Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology has awarded a $717,000 grant to the N.C. National Estuarine Research Reserve and the NOAA Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research to examine different methods of erosion prevention in sheltered coastlines.
As part of CICEET’s Living Coasts Program, the project, “Sustainable estuarine shoreline stabilization: Research, education, and public policy in North Carolina,” is focused on understanding the environmental and economic tradeoffs of alternative erosion control measures.
The project focuses on three regions on North Carolina’s coast (northern, central and southern), where researchers from NOAA, N.C. NERR, the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, and UNC-Chapel Hill will assess the ecosystem impacts of shoreline stabilization. Also included in the project is the design and construction of a demonstration project based on alternative shoreline stabilization techniques at the Rachel Carson component of the N.C. NERR. During the two-year project, they will develop an approach to evaluate ecological and socioeconomic costs and benefits of shoreline erosion and protection alternatives. The researchers will work closely with an advisory panel composed of local, state and federal resource managers, contractors, property owners and other stakeholders. The N.C. NERR will develop outreach and educational products to disseminate the knowledge and tools developed by the research team.
“The combined pressures of climate change and human activity have made shoreline management more complex,” said Richard Langan, CICEET’s University of New Hampshire co-director. “This project was selected for its ability to provide vital information about the environmental and economic costs of different erosion prevention measures to property owners, municipalities and policy makers.”
CICEET is a partnership of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of New Hampshire. CICEET works with NOAA’s National Estuarine Research Reserve System to develop tools for clean water and healthy coastal environments nationwide.
DENR Permit Handbook now available online
Information on environmental permits in now only a click away! A new permit handbook was recently created by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ One-Stop Permitting Program, and is available as an interactive Web site that provides information about North Carolina’s commonly required environmental permits, including Coastal Area Management Act permits.
This Web-based permit handbook centralizes and consolidates all the various permits, licenses, certifications and approvals from each division in the department. Select federal environmental permit information, which frequently coincides or precludes certain state permits, and N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission permits and licenses, are also included.
Each permit has summary information presented by environmental category and alphabetically for quick reference. The handbook has further categorized the department’s permitting requirements into an easy-to-access, user-friendly format based on media type that includes: air, water, land, waste, etc. The guide's organization as well as its content is designed to efficiently summarize the most frequently asked questions related to all of DENR's permit types.
The One-Stop Permit Assistance and Coordination Program has six permit assistance centers in the state to help customers navigate through the complex and sometimes confusing permitting process. Each permit assistance center offers a single point of contact to act as a liaison between the customer and the regulatory agencies. These regional coordinators are available to assist you with your permitting needs.
If you have any questions or comments about the guide, please contact Alison Davidson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
History of Offshore Drilling Issues in North Carolina
Past Offshore Drilling Moratoriums
Due largely to a spill from an oil platform off the coast of Santa Barbara in 1969, California was the first state to have its coastal waters come under a ban on leasing activities by theMinerals Management Service, or MMS, for oil and gas exploration and development. By the 1980s, oil and gas drilling began appearing as ballot issues in California with many coastal communities passing zoning ordinances that prohibited the onshore support facilities for drilling operations. These ballot issues culminated in the state enacting an permanent ban on drilling in California waters not already covered by existing leases.
In 1982, Congress passed legislation that prevented the MMS from including unleased areas (“pre-leasing” ban) in future 5-year lease programs in California only. In 1983, this pre-leasing ban was extended to the North Atlantic and in 1988 the first drilling ban was enacted that covered the Gulf of Mexico. In 1990, President George H. Bush, citing the National Research Council findings and concerns about preserving the ocean and coastal environment, supplemented the existing moratorium by prohibiting offshore leasing or pre-leasing activities in areas covered by the legislative ban until 2000. In 1990, the Outer Banks Protection Act (later repealed) was enacted. The act prohibited leasing activities in North Carolina’s OCS area. In 1998, President Bill Clinton extended the moratorium to 2012.
During the first half of 2008, gasoline prices reached $4 per gallon commensurate with oil prices reaching record levels. Amid calls for more domestic production, President George W. Bush lifted the executive moratorium in June 2008 and directed the MMS to begin preparation of a new, 5-year lease program to take effect once the current program expires. The MMS began to solicit comments from the states on Aug. 1, 2008. Despite a flurry of proposals that, in some combination, would allow states to independently choose to participate in oil and gas production, maintain bans in state waters and open all waters at specific distances from shore, Congress allowed the legislative moratorium to lapse on Sept. 30, 2008 by not renewing it in the appropriation bill. While the majority of the OCS is now no longer under a moratorium, this action does not affect the moratorium enacted under the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act that prevents leasing activities within 100 miles of the Florida coastline in the eastern Gulf of Mexico until 2022.
The Role of the Minerals Management Service (MMS)
In addition to oil, gas and sand resources, MMS has been granted authority under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to develop lease programs for alternative energy development. In a manner similar to oil and gas leasing, MMS is developing polices to issue OCS leases, easements or rights-of-way for activities that produce or support production, transportation, or transmission of energy from sources other than oil and gas.
The Current 5-Year Lease Program
The New 5-Year Lease Program
The rationale for initiating this process now is that the nation is dependent upon supply from too limited an area (Gulf of Mexico and southern California) with the recent disruptions in supply due to hurricanes cited examples. According to MMS, 27 percent of U.S. oil and 15 percent of natural gas comes from the Gulf of Mexico. Southern California accounts for about 70,000 barrels/day.
North Carolina has submitted comments on this proposal citing concerns about the effects on fisheries, tourism and continued dependency on fossil fuels. The MMS is reviewing 180,000 comments (compared to 5,000 comments on the last program) that will be used in the development of the 5-year program. A draft proposed program is expected to be completed by January 2009 at which point there will be a 60-day comment period. A proposed program and draft environmental impact statement is projected to be available by March 2010 giving the new administration a two-year head start should they decide to continue. The current program will continue until 2012, at which time the new program would go into effect. If implemented by the new administration, the new program could replace and supercede the portion of the current program remaining after the effective date of the new program with any currently scheduled sales for mid-2010 to mid-2012 being included in the new program.
Under the current procedures outlined by the OCSLA, it takes approximately 2.5 years to develop a lease program and absent additional Congressional action. This is the fastest a new plan can be prepared. With the lapse of the legislative ban in September, the House and Senate have stopped having hearings on the issue and no legislation has been passed. There have been some discussions of streamlining the process – the National Environmental Policy Act requires three public comment periods and there is interest in reducing that to two.
Interest in North Carolina’s OCS
The Role of North Carolina in OCS Decisions
1. Development of MMS 5-year plan;
2. Lease sale: the “bulk” lease sale that allows companies to bid for particular lease areas;
3. Plan of exploration: the plan of how a company will explore in order to determine if they will develop their lease site;
4. Plan of development and production: this lays out the plan for producing oil or gas from the lease site; and
5. Decommissioning: (federal consistency review may be required, but not in all cases) there is likely to be a review at this stage, especially if the rig is decommissioned as part of a rigs-to-reef program. However, decommissioning might also be included in the plan of development and production in which case those activities are reviewed/approved under No. 4.
Rachel Carson Coastal Reserve hosts summer camps
This summer the Rachel Carson Coastal Reserve will again host educational programs for students of all ages. All classes will be hands-on, field-based estuarine studies.
Junior Naturalist Program
Beginning June 17, the Junior Naturalist program for students in grades 4-8 will run Wednesdays through August 5, from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. All classes will be held at the reserve facility on Pivers Island in Beaufort. Students will conduct field investigations of estuaries. Activities will include marsh seining, water quality sampling, animal population studies, beach and marsh profiles and phytoplankton identification. The cost for all eight sessions is $100.
Adventures in the Estuary
Two sessions of “Adventures in the Estuary” will be held this summer for students in grades 1-3. The first sessions will be June 16, 18, 23, and 25, and the second sessions will be Aug. 4, 6, 11, and 13. Each session is $40 for all four classes.Classes are 9 a.m.–noon.
Preschool Storytime and Crafts
For the youngest students, Preschool Storytime and Crafts will be held from 9-10 a.m. on June 15, July 13 and Aug. 10. These sessions will include a story, estuarine critter observation and a related craft. All preschool sessions are free, but registration is required. Topics will include hermit crabs, birds and snails.
All summer programs will be held at the reserve’s classroom on Pivers Island in Beaufort. For more information about these programs or to register, please contact Lori Davis at (252) 838-0883 or email@example.com. For more information about the Rachel Carson Reserve, visit the reserve’s Web site, www.nccoastalreserve.net.
Rachel Carson Reserve offers summer field trips
The Rachel Carson Reserve in Beaufort will be offering public field trips this summer on Tuesdays and Thursdays from late June through mid-September. During low tides, the trips will be a two-hour nature hike on the reserve focusing on the different habitats and the plants and animals that are found in each. During high tide, a boat ride will take visitors to the boardwalk on Carrot Island.
All programs are open to the public. Reservations are required as boat space is limited. Call (252)838-0883 to make reservations or get more information.
23 - Boat Trip to Boardwalk (9-11 a.m.)
25 - Boat Trip to Boardwalk (9:30-11:30 a.m.)
30 - Nature Hike on Reserve (9-11 a.m.)
2 - Nature Hike on Reserve (9:30-11:30 a.m.)
7 - Boat Trip to Boardwalk (9-11 a.m.)
9 - Boat Trip to Boardwalk (9:30-11:30 a.m.)
14 - Nature Hike on Reserve (9-11 a.m.)
16 - Nature HIke on Reserve (8:30-10:30 a.m.)
21 - Boat Trip to Boardwalk (8:30-10:30 a.m.)
23 - Boat Trip to Boardwalk (9-11 a.m.)
28 - Nature Hike on Reserve (8:30-10:30 a.m.)
30 - Nature Hike on Reserve (9-11 a.m.)
4 - Boat Trip to Boardwalk (8:30-10:30 a.m.)
11 - Boat Trip to Boardwalk (9-11 a.m.)
13 - Nature Hike on Reserve (8:30-10:30 a.m.)
18 - Boat Trip to Boardwalk (8:30-10:30 a.m.)
20 - Boat Trip to Boardwalk (8:30-10:30 a.m.)
25 - Boat Trip to Boardwalk (9-11 a.m.)
27 - Nature Hike on Reserve (8:30-10:30 a.m.)
1 - Boat Trip to Boardwalk (8:30-10 a.m.)
8 - Boat Trip to Boardwalk (9:30-11:30 a.m.)
15 - Nature Hike on Reserve (9:30-11:30 a.m.)
Cape Fear Marina/Bennett Brothers Yachts certified as a North Carolina Clean Marina
The Cape Fear Marina/Bennett Brothers Yachts in Wilmington is the latest facility to be certified as a North Carolina Clean Marina. To earn the certification, the marina’s owners have prepared Spill Prevention Plans, Safety and Emergency Planning and strongly limit boat maintenance activities.
Clean Marina is a voluntary program that began in the summer of 2000. Marina operators who choose to participate must complete an evaluation form about their use of specific best management practices.
If a marina meets criteria developed by N.C. Marine Trades Services and the Division of Coastal Management, it will be designated as a Clean Marina. Such marinas are eligible to fly the Clean Marina flag and use the logo in their advertising. The flags signal to boaters that a marina cares about the cleanliness of area waterways.
Clean Marina is a nationwide program developed by the National Marine Environmental Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to clean up waterways for better recreational boating. The foundation encourages states to adapt Clean Marina principles to fit their own needs.
The N.C. Clean Marina program is a partnership between Marine Trades Services, the N.C. Marine Trade Association, the Division of Coastal Management, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and N.C. Big Sweep.
For information about the program, contact Mike Lopazanksi at (252)808-2808.
New email addresses for Division of Coastal Management staff
DCM and DENR are in the process of changing over to new e-mail addresses. Instead of firstname.lastname@example.org, the new addresses will be email@example.com. Our old email addresses will still work for the next few months, while the department completes the switch for all staff.
The Division's Clean Water Management Trust Fund Grant - as well as the other 2008 project awards, has been deferred by the trust fund because of the budget situation. DCM had been awarded a $496,000 grant for implementation of the stormwater plan on Pivers Island. We will receive priority consideration during the 2009 funding cycle.
Offshore drilling committee
Coastal Resources Commissioners Jim Leutze and Wayland Sermons, and DCM’s coastal hazards specialist Jeff Warren, were named to a 24-member legislative task force that is examining the effects of offshore oil and natural gas exploration. The committee has met twice recently, receiving information from Mike Lopazanski about the history of offshore drilling in North Carolina, and presentations from several other agencies, including the Minerals Management Service, U.S. Geological Survey and American Petroleum Institute. The committee has presented a preliminary report to the state legislature, and will continue its charge to examine offshore energy until the beginning of the 2010 legislative session.
Public meetings, review of N.C. Estuarine Research Reserves postponed
Due to recent restrictions on state employee travel, NOAA has decided to postpone the public meetings and review of the reserve program until reserve staff and other partners are able to attend. A notice will be released when the meetings are rescheduled.
Field representative Holley Snider has moved from the Elizabeth City office to the Wilmington Office.
Claudia Jones is the newest field representative in our Elizabeth City office. A Dare County native, Claudia comes to us with many years of experience in the environmental field working for the state of Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources' Critical Areas Commission.