CAMAgram - Summer 2004
N.C.’s Coastal Habitat Protection Plan needs your comments
Improved enforcement of environmental rules, larger buffers and setbacks along waterways, and comprehensive state plans to direct beach re-nourishment projects and marina construction are some of the steps proposed to restore declining habitats and protect the critical areas along the North Carolina coast where fish feed, spawn and grow.
These are all recommendations being previewed at a series of meetings the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources is holding to gather public input on the final stages of the Coastal Habitat Protection Plan – a plan to protect important coastal fish habitats. The 600-page document, five years in the making, is a joint effort between numerous state agencies, including the Marine Fisheries, Coastal Resources and Environmental Management commissions and their associated divisions. The plan is slated for completion in December 2004.
Scientists and experts who drafted the CHPP outlined hundreds of steps that should be taken to protect and enhance essential fish habitats, which have been compiled under four general goals:
Some of the recommendations to reach these goals, including marina and beach plans, would require new rules. The plans are needed, the CHPP notes, to prevent the bacterial contamination of shellfish waters and to prevent beach re-nourishment’s potentially adverse effects on fish habitat. Other recommendations, such as better coordination among state agencies for enforcing environmental rules, could be done under existing regulatory authority.
Last spring, Governor Mike Easley encouraged North Carolinians to get involved in this plan designed to protect those special places along our coast that are critical to the survival of our marine fisheries,” DENR Secretary Bill Ross said. “More than 500 people attended public meetings to share ideas on how to protect these resources. Now, we want to hear from the public again. At meetings this summer, people will have a chance to tell us what they think about the draft recommendations. We need and encourage people to express their views, comments, ideas and questions.”
The department will take those ideas and fashion the final plan, which will then go before three of North Carolina’s environmental regulatory commissions (Environmental Management, Coastal Resources, Marine Fisheries Commissions) for adoption later this year, Ross said.
The meetings start at 7 p.m. at the following locations:
July 13 Manteo – N.C. Aquarium, 374 Airport Road
Visit the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries web site to learn more about the CHPP or to download a copy of the plan, or call the Division of Marine Fisheries at 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632.
DCM adds 350 sites to public beach access database
A new statewide survey finds that public access is widely available along most ocean shorelines in North Carolina. The survey identified 550 public access points, 6,256 parking spaces at lots and street ends, and 43 restroom facilities along the state’s ocean beaches.
Thanks to the survey, about 350 locally funded access sites have been added to Coastal Management’s online database of public beach and waterfront access. DCM worked with the N.C. Shore & Beach Preservation Association and North Carolina Sea Grant to conduct the study.
“This is the first comprehensive survey conducted on public access along the ocean beach in North Carolina since the initiation of the state beach access program in 1981,” says Harry Simmons, NCS&BPA executive secretary. “It provides detailed information about each access site.”
Previously, DCM’s online database included only those access sites funded through the division’s Public and Coastal Waterfront Access Program. Adding sites funded by local communities provides the public with greatly enhanced resources for locating access points along the beach, according to Mike Lopazanski, the division’s coastal ocean and policy analyst. Similar information for state and federal parks will also soon be available.
In the survey, Emerald Isle led other coastal communities in access points with 68 sites. Sunset Beach averaged the most access points per mile — 17 sites per mile. North Topsail Beach had the most access parking spaces at 897 spaces. And Wrightsville Beach averaged the most access parking spaces per mile — 150 spaces per mile.
General Assembly considering legislation pertaining to Coastal Management
Two pieces of legislation affecting the N.C. Coastal Management Program have been introduced in the General Assembly during the current session:
House Bill 1411, an act to designate certain areas of Hatteras Island as unvegetated beach area, passed both the House and Senate and was signed into law by Gov. Easley on May 26. This is an area that was damaged by Hurricane Isabel in September 2003. The unvegetated beach designation will re-establish a development setback line that will be used to determine where structures can be (re)built. This bill will remain in effect until the CRC’s rule amendment on this issue is in effect Sept. 1.
A bill introduced into the Senate by Sen. Bill Culpepper (Chowan-D) would override existing CRC rules to allow for the construction of a “new urban waterfront” development as a pilot project in Chowan County (S 732).
Also, a House bill was introduced in the 2003 session that would raise the cap on CAMA permit fees. CAMA allows the CRC to set permit fees, but currently caps them at $400. The proposal would raise the cap to $1,000. The bill passed the House during the last session and was referred to the Senate Finance Committee, where it remained at press time.
Governor Easley comments on Ocean Commission Report
Gov. Mike Easley has submitted his official comments on the preliminary report from the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. The preliminary report, released April 20, is the work of a 16-member Commission mandated by the Oceans Act of 2000. When Congress passed the Oceans Act, it acknowledged both the costs and the significance of the oceans and coasts to this country. The commission was created to develop recommendations for a new and comprehensive national ocean policy.
“Our state has long been a leader in comprehensive coastal and fisheries policy,” Easley said in a letter detailing his comments. “We are committed to protecting our coastal and ocean resources as an integral part of North Carolina’s economy and culture.”
“The preliminary report underscores the seriousness of the problems facing our oceans,” Easley said, “and we are supportive of many of the recommendations calling for swift and focused efforts to address these problems. We applaud the commission’s finding that major changes in U.S. ocean and coastal policies are needed and that reform needs to start now.”
Several DENR divisions provided comments that Easley used to formulate his response. The governor’s comments focused on major policy issues such as the reauthorization of the federal Coastal Zone Management Act, performance-based management, creation of a National Ocean Council and Regional Ocean Council, fisheries, and support for the education and science recommendations.
CAMA minor permit applications now available online
Applications and instructions for CAMA minor permits are now available for download on DCM’s website in PDF and Word template formats.
Minor permits are required for projects such as single-family houses that don't require major permits or general permits. They are reviewed, issued and administered to CRC standards by local governments under contract with the Division of Coastal Management. The minor permit program is part of the CRC's efforts to minimize the burden on permit applicants. Under CAMA regulations, a minor permit is to be issued within 25 days once a complete application is in hand. If the project is simple, the review process often is shorter.
To apply for a minor development permit, contact your local permit officer (LPO). A list of LPOs is available at www.nccoastalmanagement.net/permits/lpolist.htm.
Two longtime DCM employees retiring this summer
Coastal Management is losing two of its longest serving employees this year – both Steve Benton, coastal hazards specialist in Raleigh, and Bob Stroud, reserve management specialist in Wilmington, have been with the division since it’s inception in 1978.
Benton, who retired April 30, began his DCM career as a field representative in Washington. In 1980 he transferred to Raleigh as head of Technical Services, and a few years later transferred again to the Federal Consistency Unit. He even spent some time as the division’s very first coastal reserve manager. But no matter how many different jobs he’s held through his DCM career, Benton always functioned as the division’s coastal geologist and hazards specialist as well.
“I’ve always been a coastal geologist at heart and by training,” Benton said, “so it was only natural that I bring that perspective to every job I’ve had with Coastal Management. It’s the only job I ever wanted to do.”
Along the way Benton has lead special study groups on erosion rate methodology, lead the Outer Banks task force that led to a ban on hardened structures on N.C. beaches, and helped to develop guidelines for issues ranging from oil spill response to balancing military and civilian use of the coast.
In the late 1990s, following an active hurricane year that included Hurricane Fran, Benton was instrumental in developing a formal coastal hazards program and in creating the Science Panel on Coastal Hazards.
Bob Stroud, who retired June 30, also joined the division in 1978 as a field representative in Wilmington, following a stint with the Division of Marine Fisheries estuarine management section.
In 1993, Stroud became the manager of the Wilmington district office, a position he held until 2002. After the state purchased Bird Island in 2002, Stroud was asked to become manager of N.C.’s 10th coastal reserve site.
“I especially enjoyed being with Coastal Management at the very beginning of the program,” Stroud said. “We were all so young, energetic and idealistic then. And North Carolina’s coastal management program is unique in that we have never simply carried out federal mandates, but have been governed primarily by state laws and priorities.”
Both men have definite plans for retirement, including travel – Stroud to Louisiana, where he can listen to and play Cajun and bluegrass music; and Benton perhaps to visit some of the many foreign exchange students he and his wife have hosted over the years. And both plan to continue their work through volunteer efforts with nonprofit coastal programs.
Of course, that will have to be in between fielding phone calls from the remaining DCM staff – more than 50 years of experience will be hard to let go.
Buxton Woods Coastal Reserve begins weekly Trail Team day
Beverly Henson, a fifth grade science teacher at Buxton Elementary, regularly recruits students to join in the efforts to work on the trails, says Reserve site manager Michele Droszcz.
"It’s nice to see the young and old volunteers coming together and getting a lot of work done," she says. “Since it has worked so well, Buxton Woods Coastal Reserve will start a weekly Trail Team day this summer.”
Every Friday afternoon during the summer, volunteers will meet at the entrance to Buxton Woods Coastal Reserve and work to clear trails and pick up trash.
"Our hope is that the kids will gain a special appreciation for the work that goes into maintaining protected land,” Droszcz says
Reserve intern promotes “Smart Seafood” in Carteret County
The idea behind Smart Seafood is to promote the use of sustainably harvested and locally caught seafood. Based on previously conducted research, most consumers don’t know where their seafood comes from or whether it is sustainable.
Consumer education on this issue can be difficult, especially in places such as Beaufort, N.C., which have large tourist industries. So the next logical step from educating the public directly is to remove the ability for consumers to purchase the unsustainable seafood. This is the method adopted by the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston, which partners with area restaurants that promise not to serve the top three unsustainable fish: Chilean Sea Bass, Orange Roughy, and Shark. In turn, the aquarium provides sustainable alternatives and guidance to the restaurants and wait staff, who then indirectly educate consumers. As a bonus, many of the sustainable alternatives that are now being used are local seafood.
Through Jim’s internship and master’s project, he hopes to implement a similar program in Carteret County. His project will also benefit the Reserve’s Coastal Training Program. Jim will develop a workshop that aims to train other Reserves and environmental nonprofit groups on how to implement a sustainable seafood campaign in their own region.
Jim’s first step is to gather information from local wholesalers, aquaculturists and restaurants to determine the makeup of the local bulk seafood market. This information will be the basis for educating restaurants on seafood sustainability and what local alternatives are available.
Additionally, Jim aims to form a cooperative with the restaurants to remove unsustainable fish from their menus while encouraging them to buy local sustainable seafood from the wholesalers and aquaculturists. The overall goal is to reduce the demand for unsustainable species, such as Chilean Sea Bass. If enough restaurants do not order Chilean Sea Bass, the market for these fish will shrink to the point it affects the amount caught.
Rachel Carson Reserve offers public field trips
The Rachel Carson Reserve Site staff will offer free public field trips again this summer. Trained volunteer naturalists lead these walking and boating field trips every Tuesday and Thursday through Sept. 2. On a walking field trip, visitors will have the opportunity to come face to face with many estuarine plants and animals as well as walk through salt marsh, barrier island and sand dune habitats. The boat trip offers a waterside view of the town of Beaufort, the Rachel Carson Reserve, Shackleford Banks and Fort Macon. For more information or to sign up, call the Reserve office at 252-728-2170.
The House Appropriations Committee has approved a $39.8 billion FY' 05 Commerce, Justice, State spending bill that would cut funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA would receive $2.3 billion under the bill, a decrease of about $400 million from the fiscal year 2004 enacted level and $136 million less than the president's request. The agency's oceans and fisheries programs would be hardest hit, while atmospheric programs such as the National Weather Service would be funded at the requested levels. In cutting ocean programs, the bill contradicts the recommendations of the congressionally mandated U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, which in April recommended substantial increases in ocean and coastal spending …
A North Carolina beach is once again counted among the nation’s best. Ocracoke Island ranked third on the annual list of “America’s Best Beaches” for the second year in a row. The annual list is compiled by coastal researcher Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a.k.a. “Dr. Beach.” Leatherman, a professor at Florida International University, ranks the nation’s 650 beaches using 50 criteria. Hanauma Bay in Hawaii took top honors this year. Cape Hatteras National Seashore, ranked number 10 last year, was bumped down to 12 in 2004, due in part to damage from Hurricane Isabel. To see the full list, go to www.drbeach.org …
Holden Beach has passed its physical, just in time for the start of the busiest season of the year. Certified a National Healthy Beach as part of the National Healthy Beaches Campaign late last year, town officials decided to seek the certification for 2004. The National Healthy Beaches Campaign is led by Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman.
The Bogue Banks beach restoration project is a winner in the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association’s third annual Top Restored Beach Awards. The awards are given each year in order to build awareness of and appreciation for the value and importance of America's restored beaches …
The University of North Carolian Coastal Studies Institute has launched their web site. Founded in 2003 by the University of North Carolina system, CSI has three main purposes: to conduct research, offer eduational opportunities and provide outreach in coastal and marine science and management ...
Steve Benton, coastal hazards specialist in Raleigh, retired April 30.
Congratulations to Cathy Brittingham, DOT projects coordinator in Raleigh, on the birth of her son Benjamin, May 27.
Christine Goebel has joined the N.C. Attorney General's Office as DCM's new staff attorney. Christy has a background in real estate law and a strong interest in coastal issues.
Mark Hardemann has joined the Morehead City office as a field representative. Mark has been a marine contractor in Craven and Pamlico counties.
Shery Keel, formerly the receptionist in DCM's Morehead City office, is the new Permits & Consistency Unit secretary.
Bob Stroud, reserve management specialist in Wilmington, retired June 30.