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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Coastal Management - Summer 2009

Coastal Management

CAMAgram - Summer 2009

Revised oceanfront setback and static line rules effective in August

Amendments to the Coastal Resources Commission’s rules governing setbacks for oceanfront structures and static setback lines for communities with large-scale beach nourishment projects became effective this week.

The rules15A NCAC 7H .0306 General Use Standards for Ocean Hazard Areas were adopted by the CRC in Sept. 2008, but were subject to legislative review. No bills affecting the rules were acted on during this year’s legislative session, which means the rules became effective at the end of the session.

The setback rule changes increase setback distances for large-scale oceanfront structures. Under the previous rule, single-family structures on the oceanfront, regardless of size, had a setback of 30 times the long-term average annual erosion rate, with a minimum setback of 60 feet landward of the first line of stable and natural vegetation. In addition, multi-family (four units and greater) and commercial buildings greater than 5,000 square feet required a setback of 60 times the long-term average annual erosion rate, with a minimum setback of 120 feet. 

The new oceanfront setbacks are based on total square footage regardless of whether the structure is single-family, multi-family or commercial. In the new policy, the minimum setback factor remains 30 times the erosion rate for all structures less than 5,000 square feet, regardless of use. The setback factor for all structures between 5,000 and 10,000 square feet is 60 times the erosion rate and increases incrementally with structure size, reaching a maximum setback at 90 times the erosion rate for structures 100,000 square feet and greater. Additional rule changes will no longer allow cantilevering oceanward of the applicable setback.

The static line rule changes develop separate management strategies for beaches that receive ongoing long-term, large-scale beach nourishment versus those that do not. The static line represents the location of stable, natural vegetation at the time of beach fill construction and, when put in place, is used as the line from which oceanfront setbacks are measured. The rule change would allow limited development on lots that cannot meet the setback from the static vegetation line if a community applies for a static line exception. To qualify for the exception, a community must have a long-term (at least 25 years) beach fill program in place that includes identifying beach compatible sand and a financial plan to build and maintain the project for its design life. Communities that receive an exception must give a progress report to the CRC every five years. front setback from the first line of stable and natural vegetation, buildings can be no further oceanward than the landward-most adjacent building, and total floor area is limited to 2,500 square feet. Additionally, a static line exception establishes a maximum setback for all structures greater than 5,000 square feet at 60 times the erosion rate, similar to the previous setback policy. 

The towns of Carolina Beach and Wrightsville Beach will be the first to apply for static line exceptions, at the CRC’s August meeting in Beaufort.

Legislative update

A number of bills related to coastal resources were enacted during this year’s legislative session.

HB 709: Address Erosion Control Issues

This bill imposes a moratorium until Sept. 1, 2010, on sandbag enforcement, prohibiting the CRC from ordering the removal of sandbag structures in communities actively pursuing beach nourishment or inlet relocation projects.

Although the bill does not direct the CRC to consider permitting terminal groins at this time, it does direct the CRC, in consultation with N.C. Division of Coastal Management, the N.C. Division of Land Resources, and the Coastal Resources Advisory Council, to conduct a study of the feasibility and advisability of the use of terminal groins as erosion control devices. A report must be presented to the Environmental Review Commission and the General Assembly by April 1, 2010.

SB 831: Extend Certain Development Approvals

This bill will effectively extend the expiration dates of all Coastal Area Management Act permits (and several other environmental permits) effective between Jan. 1, 2008 and Dec. 31, 2010.  

SB 524: Disapprove Coastal Setback Rule

Disapproves amendments to NCAC 07H .0306 (increased setbacks for large oceanfront structures) as amended by the CRC in November 2008. This bill was not acted on during the session, making these amendments effective at the end of the session on Aug. 11.

SB 832: CRC May Permit Terminal Groin

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. This bill passed the N.C. Senate, but not the N.C. House. The House instead passed a bill directing the CRC to study terminal groins (see HB 709 above).

HB 1378: Clean Marinas/Pumpout Stations

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 DCM to establish a pilot program in New Hanover County to begin phasing in the requirements of this act.


DCM survey evaluates public perception of sea level rise in N.C.

DCM has released a survey designed to gain insight into public perceptions of sea level rise impacts in North Carolina. The survey is the first part of a larger effort by Coastal Management, the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources to address potential responses to sea level rise on a state level.

The survey will help the division identify perceptions of risk from sea level rise, and what stakeholders believe should be done to address the potential impacts, and by whom. The answers will also assist DCM in preparing a written Coastal Resources Commission policy on sea level rise, and in offering assistance to coastal local governments, partner agencies and other stakeholders.

“We are seeking responses from a diverse audience,” said Tancred Miller, coastal policy analyst for DCM and primary author of the survey. “Whatever an individual’s knowledge or belief about sea level rise, everyone’s perceptions are of great interest to us.”

Survey responses will be collected until Aug. 31. Then, the Web? Link containing those responses will be deactivated and results compiled. The results they will be presented at a futureCoastal Resources Commissionmeeting, and posted online at the division’s Web site. 

DCM is also working with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources to co-host a sea level rise science forum early next year, followed by a policy summit next summer. 

To take the survey, visit www. and select the first link under “What’s New.”

Report Reviews Emerging Ocean Policy Issues

A new report, titled “Developing a Management Strategy for North Carolina’s Coastal Ocean, reviews emerging ocean policy topics. 

Presented to the CRC in June, the report was developed through a two-year partnership that included the Division of Coastal Management, North Carolina Sea Grant and the N.C. Coastal Resources Law, Planning and Policy Center. 

“This is a forward-thinking document,” said Lisa Schiavinato, Sea Grant coastal law, policy and community development specialist, who also co-directs the center. “It provides the CRC and the Division of Coastal Management with a snapshot of ocean resource issues that will become increasingly important to North Carolina. The information contained in the report about the emerging issues, along with the recommendations on how to address them, will put the state in a solid position to develop policy approaches before the issues become critical.”

“The report will be instrumental in helping DCM and the CRC prepare for challenges we may face in managing future environmental, cultural and economic shifts along our coast,” added Scott Geis, coastal and ocean policy analyst for the Division of Coastal Management. “Even as the report was being generated, we began to see emerging issues transform into ‘here and now’ issues, such as offshore wind energy. The work of the OPSC (Ocean Policy Steering Committee) cannot be commended enough, as they have provided the technical and scientific insight that is crucial to sound policy planning.”

The report’s recommendations include development of a comprehensive plan to protect beaches and inlets, identification of available sand resources, creation of a coastal vulnerability index, and mapping of ocean resources. Emerging issues identified by the committee are: sand resource management, alternative energy development, ocean outfalls, marine aquaculture and comprehensive ocean management.

The 14-member Ocean Policy Steering Committee focused on North Carolina’s coastal ocean waters and adjacent federal waters. The panel reviewed current research and held public hearings to review a draft of the report.

The CRC received the final report at its June meeting. A subcommittee will consider potential next steps in light of the recommendations. Subcommittee members are: Coastal Resources commissioners Joan Weld, Lee Wynns, Bill Peele and David Webster; and Coastal Resources Advisory Council members Dara Royal, Spencer Rogers and Harry Simmons.

The report is available for download from and


Public input sought on Reserves’ management plan

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Division of Coastal Management are seeking public comment on the N.C. National Estuarine Research Reserves revised Management Plan.

The revised management plan outlines the administrative structure; the education, stewardship, and research goals of the reserve; and plans for future land acquisition and facility development to support reserve operations. This management plan describes how the strengths of the reserve will focus on several areas relevant to coastal North Carolina: coastal population increase, altered land use, stormwater runoff, invasive species, tropical and coastal storm impacts and sea level rise. To view a copy of the plan, visit the reserve’s Web site at

A public meeting to discuss the plan will be held at 6 p.m., Aug. 19, at the NOAA/NCNERR Administration Building Auditorium, Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research, 101 Pivers Island Road, Beaufort, N.C.

Written comments should be sent to Rebecca Ellin, N.C. Reserve/N.C. Division of Coastal Management, 101 Pivers Island Road, Beaufort, N.C. 28516 or via email, no later than Aug. 31.

For additional information, contact N.C. National Estuarine Research Reserve Manager Rebecca Ellin at (252)838-0880.


Fourth of July crowd leaves behind trashed Masonboro Island

The Masonboro Island coastal reserve has traditionally been a popular spot to spend summer holidays. Unfortunately, not everyone who takes advantage of the reserve on those days remembers to leave the island as unspoiled as they found it. Over the years, some raucous holiday parties have left the island looking more like a landfill, and this Fourth of July weekend was no exception. Volunteers collected several bags of trash along a quarter-mile of the island following the holiday, including hundreds of beer cans, and even beach chairs and tents.

“Masonboro Island is not a park,” said DCM director Jim Gregson, “but a protected research reserve that provides essential habitat for wildlife, and serves as a living laboratory for researchers, scientists, and educators. The activity that occurred at the island on July 4 with the large number of visitors that left behind substantial amounts of trash is in direct conflict with maintaining the natural integrity of the site and the research and education objectives of the Reserve.”

The vast majority of Masonboro Island visitors are respectful of the environment, and pack out not only their own litter, but any they find that was left by others. On holiday weekends it seems, a different group takes over.

“Fortunately, many volunteers pitched in once again this year to clean up the mess,” Gregson said, “and I can’t thank them enough for all their hard work.”

The division is considering many options for addressing this issue and we intend to incorporate public input into our decision-making process. While DCM does not want to restrict access to one of the only remaining pristine barrier islands in North Carolina, we may be forced to take further action if Masonboro continues to be misused by large numbers of visitors with no respect for its value. 

A public meeting to discuss options for addressing usage of Masonboro Island will be held at 6 p.m., Oct. 8, at the UNCW Center for Marine Science.

Revisions to CAMA General Permit for piers and docking facilities effective July 1

At their April meeting, the Coastal Resources Commission adopted amendments to 15A NCAC 7H .1200 General Permit for the Construction of Piers: Docks: and Boat Houses in Estuarine and Public Trust Waters and Ocean Hazard Areas.

The revisions allow a maximum of 800 square feet of docks and mooring facilities (excluding the pier), which can be used in any combination, except that no single component may be more than 400 square feet. The maximum square footage of docks and mooring facilities is calculated as eight square feet per linear foot of shoreline, up to the 800 square foot limit.

Docking facilities must also be elevated at least three feet above any coastal wetlands.

The amendments also codify the existing protocol of consulting with the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) or the Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) before permitting docking facilities in designated Primary Nursery Areas (PNAs)

where the normal low water depth is less than two feet.

Piers and docking facilities may be constructed over shellfish beds and submerged aquatic vegetation without prior consultation between DCM and DMF or N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission if the water depth at the docking facility is equal to or greater than two feet at normal low or normal water level (whichever is applicable) and the facility is located to minimize the area of SAV or shellfish beds under the structure.

The revised General Permit also allows for shared piers and docking facilities, which may be shared by no more than two adjacent riparian property owners, and must overlap the shared property line.


Amended sandbag rules for Inlet Hazard Areas effective July 1

Effective July 1, homeowners in Inlet Hazard Areas may be able to keep sandbags in front of their property for an extended time under certain conditions.

Amendments to 15A NCAC 7H .0308(a)(2) Temporary Erosion Control Structures allow threatened structures located in an Inlet Hazard Area to be protected by sandbags for up to eight years, provided they are located in a community that is actively seeking an inlet relocation project.

Existing sandbag structures located in Inlet Hazards Areas may also be eligible for an additional eight-year extension should the structure become threatened again and the community seeks another inlet relocation project.

The amendments also clarify that sandbags may be placed more than 20 feet from a structure when warranted by accelerated erosion.

New DCM selection key can help homeowners choose the best option for stabilizing estuarine shorelines

North Carolina shorelines as subject to continued erosion due to storms, boat wakes, currents and sea level rise. Property owners have the option to stabilize their shoreline with a variety of structures. However, not all shoreline stabilization methods are appropriate in every location.

The Division of Coastal Management has developed a user-friendly guide to help waterfront property owners choose the most appropriate method to stabilize an eroding estuarine shoreline, while attempting to minimize the impacts of erosion control structures. The idea is to encourage property owners to use a stabilization method that minimizes the impacts to local shoreline habitats while still providing erosion control.

The new brochure presents general information on North Carolina shoreline types and a variety of stabilization options available. A selection key will then help property owners determine which shoreline stabilization method would be most appropriate based on their shoreline type and other site characteristics. The guide is available online in a new section of DCM’s Web site devoted to estuarine shoreline issues.

Briefly …

Quieter hurricane season on tap?
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association has downgraded its forecast for the 2009 hurricane season to a “near-normal” or “below-normal” season. NOAA had predicted an “above-normal” year when its first forecast came out in May.

NOAA’s forecast downgrade follows a similar move by the storm prognosticating team at Colorado State University, led by William Gray.

William Gray, hurricane researcher at Colorado State University, also lowered the seasonal outlook to 11 named storms, with five developing into hurricanes. Last December, Dr. Gray’s team predicted 14 named storms and seven hurricanes.

NRDC rates N.C. beach water quality
North Carolina continues to have some of the best beach water quality in the country, according to the latest report by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The NRDC report for 2008 ranked North Carolina fifth in the country for beach water quality, with only two percent of water samples exceeding national safe swimming standards.


Staff News

Terry Moore, district manager in the Washington Regional office, retired July 31 after 38 years with the state. Terry spent the last 30 plus years with the Division of Coastal Management. “As a native son of North Carolina,” Terry said shortly before he retired, “I’m glad I had the opportunity to work on behalf of the state’s natural resources.”

David Moye, express permits coordinator in the Washington office, will be the interim district manager in Washington.

Daniel Govoni, assistant major permits coordinator in the Morehead City office, and his wife Beth, welcomed son, John Thomas, on July 7.

Kim Hedrick, compliance and enforcement representative in the Washington office, and her husband, Ryan, welcomed daughter, Hayden Lilly, on July 29.

Debbie Savage, GIS analyst in the Raleigh office, has a new granddaughter, Keira Lyn Gracyk. Keira Lyn was born April 30.



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