Summer 2012 CAMAgram
Summer has been a busy season for the N.C. Division of Coastal Management. As with prior years, warmer weather has been accompanied by an increase in permit applications for coastal development. We have also continued to receive requests for repairs of structures damaged by Hurricane Irene (through a Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA) Emergency General Permit issued last August).
While we understand that few enjoy the prospect of applying for a permit, we continue to take pride in our efforts to deliver exceptional customer service and make the experience as understandable, painless and meaningful as possible. Our goal is to help anyone, from a large-scale developer to an individual homeowner, navigate the federal and state regulations that apply to a wide range of ocean, beachfront and estuarine development activities. Since I joined DCM in December 2011, I have been very impressed with our staff’s dedication to assisting applicants throughout the permitting process and maintaining a “how can we help” attitude. We also recognize that we can always improve, and we would welcome your feedback.
One of our highest priorities is to keep North Carolina’s communities and stakeholders aware of and involved in the projects, events, policy discussions and programs underway at DCM. With that in mind, we’ve changed the format of our newsletter and will now make it available both through email and on our website. Please feel free to share with others who may be interested, and let us know if you have any feedback on our new format or suggestions for future newsletters. If you would like to send comments or have your name added or removed from the email list, please email your request to Michele.Walker@ncdenr.gov. And please visit our website at www.nccoastalmanagement.net for additional information about our program.
In this Issue:
Letters Highlight DCM Customer Service
In a letter to the editor of the Carteret News Times, a gentleman who recently applied for a CAMA permit to install a pier on his property praised the DCM Morehead City staff for their professionalism:
“I have worked with most permitting agencies, from the EPA to local planning and building offices, and can assure you that I have never been met with the professionalism and expedience shown by Mr. [Barry] Guthrie and other staff from the Morehead City CAMA office. … This was proof to me that there are professional, courteous and knowledgeable government workers out there. These guys are tasked with the impossible job of both protecting the fragile coastal environment and permitting responsible coastal development … I can tell you from experience that North Carolina is doing a fabulous job at being proactive in protecting natural beauty and charm while allowing development at a responsible rate.”
A recent email from a variance petitioner also praised DCM staff:
“[Through my work] I have had the opportunity to deal with local municipalities, USPS, DoD, etc. I generally do not look forward to these events as they can be a bit frustrating. However, every single dealing I have had with you has been a pleasure. Everyone was helpful, knowledgeable and pleasant. If all agencies across our country treated people the way you do, our government would have a much better reputation.”
DCM is always proud of our staff’s commitment to providing our customers with the very best service!
DCM and Division of Water Quality (DWQ) Work to Further Streamline Coastal Permitting in Buffer Areas
Beginning in 2009, DCM was granted the authority, on behalf of DWQ, to review and approve requests for buffer authorization certificates for development projects that also require a Coastal Area Management Act permit.
The updated agreement allows DCM to process applications as Minor Permits and/or Exemptions as long as the applicant complies with DWQ’s table of exempt uses for the Neuse River Basin or the Tar-Pamlico River Basin, and has also signed the buffer authorization certificate for certain CAMA Minor Permits in the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico River basins. In addition, it also allows DCM to process certain applications under a CAMA Minor Permit if the applicant has obtained a buffer authorization from DWQ.
For more information, contact David Moye at firstname.lastname@example.org
Renewed Focus on Compliance Assistance
During the first half of 2012, DCM regulatory staff initiated 27 new enforcement actions and closed out 23 cases, including cases initiated prior to this year. A total of $11,425 in penalties was assessed and $9,351 has been collected. Assessed penalties are sent to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.
During this period, staff also performed more than 977 inspections for permit monitoring, complaint investigations, violation investigations, restoration follow-up site visits and compliance assistance. The compliance rate of permitted projects is 96 percent, one of the highest compliance rates in the department.
CRC Draft Sea-Level Rise Policy Development
In 2009, the CRC identified sea-level rise as one of its priority issues. DCM staff developed a plan for examining the issue and engaging the public. The CRC also asked its Science Panel on Coastal Hazards to examine current and projected rates of sea level rise in the state. The Science Panel is a volunteer advisory body that was formed to take advantage of North Carolina’s expertise in coastal engineering and coastal geology. The group of North Carolina scientists and engineers provides the CRC with scientific data and recommendations on coastal issues.
A 2009 survey designed to gain insight into public understanding on sea-level rise in North Carolina showed an overwhelming perception among respondents that sea-level rise is occurring, and a desire for a coordinated state response. Additionally, the CRC topped the list of agencies that respondents believed should be addressing the issue.
An N.C. Sea-Level Rise Science Forum was held in January 2010, attracting more than 250 stakeholders and several national and state expert speakers. The forum culminated with the presentation of the science panel’s preliminary report on sea-level rise. The report synthesizes the best available science on sea-level rise, and provides a projected range of expected relative sea-level rise for North Carolina through 2100.
The panel’s report acknowledged the large uncertainties in attempting to forecast future sea levels through the end of the century, and indicated that the most likely scenario for sea-level rise in North Carolina is between 15 inches and 55 inches by 2100. The report recommended the adoption of one meter (or approximately 39 inches) of sea-level rise as a guideline for future policy development and planning purposes, an amount within the recommended range of many national and international scientific institutions.
Following the release of the science panel’s report, the CRC worked with DCM to develop a draft sea-level rise policy that included some of the panel’s recommendations. The initial draft of the policy included the recommendation of one meter (39 inches) of sea-level rise by 2100 as a planning benchmark. However, following a series of meetings with local government officials who expressed concerns about the draft policy, the CRC removed the one-meter benchmark from the policy in February 2011, along with any suggestion that local governments needed to include sea-level rise projections in land use planning.
In April 2012, the science panel issued an addendum to their initial report which examined studies released since the original report was issued. Based on this review, the panel found no reason to revise their original recommendations.
The CRC does not have any active proposal to regulate development or require that local land use planning be based on a rate or amount of sea-level rise. The current version of the CRC’s draft sea-level rise policy has been reviewed to ensure the emphasis is on education, research and technical support, not regulation.
DCM and the CRC will work with the science panel to update the panel’s 2010 Sea-Level Rise Assessment Report as required by House Bill 819. At its upcoming August meeting, the CRC will continue discussions centered on a draft non-regulatory sea-level rise policy. The CRC will also continue to engage with partners on sea-level rise research and monitoring; identifying and evaluating adaptation strategies; and targeted education and outreach activities in line with other program efforts focused on mitigating the impacts of a variety of coastal hazards.
For more information, contact Tancred Miller at email@example.com.
Estuarine Shoreline Mapping Project Milestone
Those questions, and more, could soon be answered thanks to DCM’s ongoing Estuarine Shoreline Mapping Project. DCM staff recently completed the creation of a continuous digital estuarine shoreline map for North Carolina, a project that included identifying the mileage of different shoreline types such as marsh and sediment banks, and the number of shoreline structures such as piers and bulkheads along the state’s more than 12,000 miles of estuarine shoreline.
The maps can be used by DCM and other agencies to inventory shorelines and structures, study the relationships of shoreline structures and shoreline type, monitor future trends of shoreline development, and better understand the cumulative effects of development on the estuarine environment.
Next steps in the project include a more in-depth analysis of the shoreline, including calculating the length of five distinct shoreline types, length of the types of modified shoreline, and the number of modified structures; identifying regional development trends; and analysis of the distribution of coastal structures.
New and recertified N.C. Clean Marinas
The Clean Marina program illustrates how marina operators can help safeguard the environment by using management and operation techniques that exceed environmental requirements. To earn the certification, the marina’s owners prepare spill prevention plans and conduct safety and emergency planning. Marina operators also control boat maintenance activities to protect water quality. Marinas must complete the recertification process every two years in order to retain their certification as a North Carolina Clean Marina.
For more information, contact Clean Marina Program coordinator Pat Durrett firstname.lastname@example.org.
Public Hearings on Oceanfront Erosion Rates Scheduled
Hearings will take place in each of the eight coastal counties that contain ocean shoreline:
5 p.m. Aug. 28 – New Hanover County Government Center, 230 Government Center Drive, Wilmington
Written comments may be sent to Braxton Davis, N.C. Division of Coastal Management, 400 Commerce Ave., Morehead City, N.C. 28557, or by e-mail to Braxton.Davis@ncdenr.gov. The deadline for written comments is Oct. 1.
A long-term average annual erosion rate is based on the average amount of erosion that occurs each year over a period of about 50 years. By measuring movement of the ocean shoreline over a long period of time, the Division of Coastal Management is able to develop a more accurate representation of the net shoreline change, taking into account normal shoreline movement, beach nourishment and storms.
DCM uses long-term average annual erosion rates in determining setback distances for oceanfront construction. Setbacks are measured from the first line of stable natural vegetation.
For more information, contact Ken Richardson at email@example.com.
DCM Honors Kill Devil Hills LPO
40th Anniversary of the Federal Coastal Zone Management Act
Coastal Reserve Programs
More than 425 K-12 students participated in field trips to the Rachel Carson Reserve this spring. These trips are offered in the spring and fall to schools and address N.C. Standard Course of Study areas in science, social studies and language arts.
Summer public field trips are happening now at the Rachel Carson Reserve. The field trips are held every Tuesday and Thursday from 8:30-10:30 a.m. through Aug. 30. The field trips are tide-dependant and include either a nature hike on the island, a boat trip to the boardwalk on Carrot Island or a boating trip circumnavigating the reserve with a stop at Middle Marsh. Reservations are required. For more information, please visit the reserve website.
Legislative Update – Ratified Bills from 2012 Short Session
Section 2 requires the CRC to further study sea-level rise and places a moratorium on the adoption of any official rates of sea level rise for regulatory purposes until July 2016.
Section 3 allows for the repair or replacement of single-family or duplex residential structures constructed prior to Aug. 11, 2009, that are greater than 5,000 square feet in total floor area, and that do not meet the current oceanfront setback requirements. The structure must be rebuilt in the original footprint. This section creates a “grandfathering” provision for residential structures greater than 5,000 square feet, allowing them to be rebuilt under setback rules in effect prior to 2009.
Section 4 directs the CRC to study the feasibility of creating a new Area of Environmental Concern for the lands and waters adjacent to the mouth of the Cape Fear River, including the town of Caswell Beach and the Village of Bald Head Island.
Section 5 directs the CRC to study the feasibility of eliminating the Inlet Hazard Area Area of Environmental Concern.
HB950 – Appropriations
Legal Update of Active Cases
Cases in the North Carolina Court of Appeals:
State ex rel. Freeman (DENR) v. Pharr (COA11-1302) - Appeal of a judgment at trial in favor of the Pharrs finding that the filling of two lots on Ocracoke were not coastal wetlands as claimed by DCM.
The Riggings HOA v. CRC (New Hanover 09 CVS 2761) - Judicial review of the CRC’s denial of a variance on re-hearing to allow expired sandbags to remain with no definite end date.
Busik v. CRC and 1118 Longwood (Brunswick 11 CVS 2596) - CRC’s Final Agency Decision regarding the interpretation of the ocean erosion setback rule (15A NCAC 7H .0306).
Cases in the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH):
Sansotta et al. v. DCM (12 EHR 1689) & Toloczko v. DCM (12 EHR 1690) - Appeal of DCM’s denial for developing new septic systems on six Nags Head lots because, among other reasons, they do not meet the ocean erosion setback.
Cherry Inc. v. DCM (12 EHR 2285) - Appeal of DCM’s denial for developing new septic systems on a lot in Nags Head because, among other reasons, it does not meet the ocean erosion setback.