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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Coastal Management - winter05

Coastal Management

CAMAgram - Winter 2005

N.C. DENR begins work to implement CHPP

A plan developed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to protect North Carolina’s critical coastal habitats has received final approval from the state’s three environmental commissions, and now the important work of carrying out the plan can begin.  The Marine Fisheries, Coastal Resources and Environmental Management commissions each adopted the Coastal Habitat Protection Plan in December 2004.

The CHPP describes critical habitats where marine fish and shellfish feed, spawn and grow, and also identifies threats to those habitats and makes recommendations for addressing them.  The CHPP recommendations fall under four broad goals: improve the effectiveness of existing rules and programs protecting coastal fish habitats; identify, designate and protect Strategic Habitat Areas; enhance and protect habitats from physical impacts; and enhance and protect water quality.

The three commissions will spend the first half of this year developing plans for implementing the CHPP recommendations. In the meantime, DENR has already identified actions it can start taking now, including enhancing enforcement of existing rules protecting fish habitat, developing indicators of habitat health and reporting on trends, working to restore oyster shell bottoms and educating the public about the importance of these habitats.

This report not only gives an overview of the threats to fisheries habitat, but through its specific recommendations will result in better protection and restoration of habitats critical to North Carolina fisheries resources. After all, these habitats support more than just fish, they also support the economy of Eastern North Carolina and a wayof life for many North Carolinians.

For more information about the Coastal Habitat Protection Plan, visit DENR’s Web site at

Division of Coastal Management Accomplishments 2005

North Carolina’s CAMA program realized the following accomplishments in 2005:

· Coastal Resources Commission Chairman Gene Tomlinson signed the state’s Coastal Habitat Protection Plan at a ceremony on February 11.

· At its June meeting, the CRC approved the Coastal Resources Commission/Division of Coastal Management Coastal Habitat Protection Plan implementation plan.

· Enhanced public access to public beaches and coastal waters through $1.4 million in grants for 21 projects in 15 local communities.  The grants help pay for a variety of projects to improve access to coastal beaches and waters, including walkways, dune crossovers, restrooms, parking areas and piers. Funds also may be used for land acquisition or urban waterfront revitalization.

· Supported coastal land-use planning through $420,000 in grants to 30 local communities. Projects that are eligible for funds include new or updated CAMA land-use plans.

· With the CRC Science Panel, developed draft guidelines for sand compatibility for beach nourishment projects.

· Provided assistance to coastal residents recovering from Hurricane Ophelia by issuing CAMA emergency permits for rebuilding docks, piers, boathouses, sand dunes and other development activities and authorizing hundreds of more structures to be repaired under the statutory provisions of CAMA.

· Reached thousands of students, teachers, local government officials, coastal decision makers, and other members of the coastal community through workshops (Clean Marina, Coastal Explorations, Docks and Piers, etc.), reserve site field trips, Estuary Live broadcasts, and other educational activities conducted by the staff of the North Carolina Coastal Reserves. The Spring 2005 Estuary Live broadcast alone reached more than 1,100 participants.

· Successfully carried out the eleventh year of the N.C. National Estuarine Research Reserve System-Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP) at Masonboro and Zeke’s Island. SWMP is part of a national program to provide baseline data for water quality, chlorophyll a, nutrients, and weather for 26 estuaries across the country. These data track short-term variability and long-term change in estuarine waters.

· Successfully completed the transition of DCM's headquarters to a new office building in Morehead City. Staffing vacancies throughout the Division have been filled for the first time in many years.

Science Panel recommends sediment criteria

In early 2002, the state Science Panel on Coastal Hazards began looking at the issue of sand criteria on nourished beaches in North Carolina. Recent nourishment projects along the state’s coast have raised questions about the potential environmental impacts of rebuilding beaches with sand containing a high percentage of silt, shell or pebble. The CRC has general guidelines that require the use of compatible sand in nourishment projects, but some members think more specific standards are needed.

The CRC asked the Science Panel to review current guidelines and recommend criteria for sand compatibility. This fall, the panel finalized a comprehensive set of sediment criteria recommendations, which were formally presented to the CRC on Jan. 27 by the chairman of the Science Panel, Dr. John Fisher from the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering at North Carolina State University.

The recommendations include a section on post-nourishment monitoring and mitigation, in order to better understand the biological and physical responses to nourishment.

Over the next few months, DCM staff will assess if and how recent beach nourishment and dredge disposal projects would have been affected by the science panel recommendations. Based on this validation procedure, continued research of pertinent data and peer-reviewed research, and stakeholder input, draft rule language will be developed and presented to the CRC for discussion later this year. At that time, the CRC may choose to amend the existing sediment criteria rules to incorporate the suggested criteria.

The Science Panel on Coastal Hazards was formed in 1997 to provide the CRC with advice and technical recommendations for managing coastal hazards.

Tsunami cause and effect – Is the North Carolina coast at risk?  

The destructive force and regional extent of tsunamis historically have made them one of the deadliest of coastal hazards. The recent tsunami in southeastern Asia has riveted the world’s attention. It also has a lot of people asking, could it happen here?

"The risk of a tsunami striking the East Coast is not great,” says Jeff Warren, DCM’s coastal hazards analyst. “However, there is evidence of such events taking place in the past. While the possibility for future tsunamis in North Carolina is there, it’s very slim.”

About 85 percent of tsunamis occur in the Pacific Ocean, but they have been known to occur in every other ocean and sea except the Arctic, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The last major destructive tsunami in the Indian Ocean prior to the Dec. 26 tragedy happened in 1883. Tsunamis in the Atlantic Ocean are rare, but they do happen. Two have been recorded since 1600 – one in Lisbon, Portugal in 1755 and another in Newfoundland, Canada in 1929.

The limited number of earthquakes in and around the Atlantic is directly related to the lack of geologic activity in the area. Future tsunamis here are more likely to be related to underwater landslides (triggered by gravity-induced slope failure, volcanic eruption, or methane release).

One possible trigger for an Atlantic tsunami is the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma, the westernmost of the Canary Islands. The resultant tsunami would likely take seven hours to reach the North Carolina coast with waves less than nine feet tall.  

Another trigger could be a 25-mile-long set of cracks located northeast of Cape Haterras, about 75 miles out from Norfolk, Va. A landslide caused by a release of methane gas could potentially cause the Outer Banks to experience waves between six and nine feet. However, even ten-foot waves would probably do less damage than the strong Northeastern storm surges common on our coast, Warren said.

The third, and most unlikely scenario, involves a large asteroid hitting the Atlantic – much like the one that killed the dinosaurs millions of years ago.

One specific meteor has already been identified as having a 1-in-300 chance of hitting the Earth, possibly landing just a few hundred miles off the North Carolina coast on March 16, 2880.

The threat of a tsunami catching us off guard has been reduced significantly by the government’s recent plan to increase the nation’s tsunami warning system by adding 37 warning buoys to the Atlantic and Indian oceans. Currently there are only six warning buoys deployed, all in the Pacific.

During the January Coastal Resources Commission meeting, Jeff Warren took the opportunity to provide a timely presentation to the CRC on the causes of tsunamis, as well as the likelihood of a tsunami occurring in North Carolina. The complete presentation is available on our Web site.

DCM awards $1.8 million in local government grants for access projects

The Division of Coastal Management has awarded a record $1.8 million to 21 local governments for 23 projects to improve public access to coastal beaches and waters for the 2003-04 fiscal year.

The $1.8 million is the most 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  receivinggrants 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.

“We are extremely pleased that we can continue to help local governments acquire sites and build facilities to enhance public access to our state’s beaches and coastal waters,” said John Thayer, Coastal Management’s planning and public access manager.

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 300 public waterfront access sites since it began in 1981.


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration conducted its periodic review of the four North Carolina sites that are part of the National Estuarine Research Reserve program during the week of Dec. 6. A team of three federal reviewers from NOAA and one state reviewer spent the week traveling the N.C. coast from the Outer Banks to Wilmington, visiting each of the four NERR sites: Currituck Banks, Rachel Carson, Masonboro Island, and Zeke’s Island.

The reviewers conducted three public meetings, and also met with stakeholders, volunteers, and Division of Coastal Management staff to gain input on management and operation of the NERR sites.

At the end of the week, the team provided informal feedback on how the sites are being managed, including compliments for the education and coastal training programs, research partnerships and the System-Wide Monitoring Program. DCM should receive a formal report from NOAA in the next few months.

New contact information for Morehead City office

The N.C. Division of Coastal Management’s Morehead City headquarters is moving to a new office building this week. Beginning Feb. 14, the office’s new address will be 400 Commerce Ave., Morehead City, N.C. 28557.

The office also has a new toll-free number: 888-912-CAMA (2262). The current phone (252-808-2808) and fax (252-247-3330) numbers will remain the same.

The Morehead City Coastal Management office servesCarteret, Craven and Pamlico counties and Onslow County north of the New River.

Stormwater and Aquaculture Effluent Technology Fair

Coastal Management, the N.C. National Estuarine Research Reserve, NOAA and Duke University Marine Laboratory are hosting a Stormwater and Aquaculture Effluent Technology Fair at the Duke University Marine Lab on Piver’s Island in Beaufort March 8 and 9. This two-day fair will highlight innovative technologies and practices for controlling stormwater runoff and aquaculture effluent. Various companies and engineering firms will demonstrate their products or past projects.

Day one will focus on stormwater runoff control technologies and day two (half day) is focused on aquaculture effluent control technologies. The fair will also be broadcast over the Internet at for those who are unable to attend in person. There is no fee to attend the Fair and lunch will be provided on day one.

Registrations must be received one week before the workshop date. Please indicate if you are registering for day one, day two or both days. 

To register, contact Whitney Jenkins ( or Lori Davis (, at 252-728-2170.

Winter Wildlife on the Coast

Join the Rachel Carson National Estuarine Research Reserve and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission for a workshop focusing on winter wildlife on our barrier islands. Through a classroom presentation and a field trip, we will discover species that inhabit these areas during our coldest months. This workshop will satisfy requirements for Component II of the NC OEE certification program.

This workshop is scheduled for Feb. 18 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. ContactAmy Sauls to register. Space is limited.

EPA announces Coastal Conditions Report II

Benjamin Grumbles, Assistant Administrator for Water, U.S.  Environmental Protection Agency, recently announced the availability of EPA’s National Coastal Condition Report II.  Second in a series of environmental assessments of U.S. coastal waters and the Great Lakes, the report represents collaboration among EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey. The report contains data provided by 23 coastal states through EPA’s environmental monitoring and assessment program. 

“America’s estuaries, wetlands, coral reefs, and mangrove forests are critical coastal habitats,” said Grumbles. “We will continue to benefit from this abundant resource if we have a clear understanding of its health today.  This report will serve as a baseline to understand how we can move forward to protect these vital areas.”

America’s coastal waters are spawning grounds, nurseries, shelter and food for a host of fish, wildlife, waterfowl, and migratory birds. They contribute most of America's commercial and recreational fish catch, and – through fishing, boating, tourism, and other coastal industries – they provide more than 28 million jobs nation-wide.

The EPA report is available at: 

CERF moves north to the Outer Banks

The Carolina Estuarine Reserve Foundation has moved its headquarters from Beaufort to the Outer Banks. The Foundation’s new address is 983 W. Kitty Hawk Rd., Kitty Hawk, N.C. 27949.

Along with the change in location, CERF’s newly redesigned Web site,, includes information about joining CERF, volunteer opportunities at N.C. Coastal Reserve sites, and Reserve activities and programs, as well as a quarterly newsletter.

The organization has also elected a new board of directors:

· CERF Board President Scott Lawrencehas always had a passion for the outdoors and environmental causes. With a background in Environmental Studies, Scott worked at various non-profit environmental organizations in Washington, D.C. before leaving the field to start a Graphic Design Studio with his wife. Scott is finding his passion again by specializing his business on environmental non-profits, and volunteering locally.

· Vice President Brett Landryhas spent most of the last 15 years on the Outer Banks. Active in environmental organizations since the 1970s, Brett operates a watersports business in Avon and resides in Kitty Hawk with his wife and two children. He is also a published writer and photographer.

· Treasurer Burnie Gould is a retired business executive with a background in mathematics and economics. He is active in organizations that encourage protection of wildlife and the environment.

· Lee Leidy is an attorney and the director of the Outer Banks office for the N.C. Coastal Land Trust.

· Michele Droszcz is the Northern Sites Manager for the N.C. Division of Coastal Management's Coastal Reserve Program. She is responsible for the management of the Buxton Woods, Kitty Hawk Woods and Currituck Banks reserve sites.

· Michele Walker is the Public Information Officer for the N.C. Division of Coastal Management.

CERF works exclusively to support the preservation, development and cooperation of the North Carolina Coastal Reserves and North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserves for charitable, educational and scientific purposes. The Foundation is a voice to speak on behalf of the reserves and works to sustain and increase funding for the reserve programs. CERF is led by a volunteer board that works to support volunteer efforts, raises money to support the reserves, and encourages coastal communities to take an active role in protecting our valuable natural resources.

The purpose of the N.C. Coastal Reserves is to manage representative natural areas for long-term research, monitoring, education and compatible traditional uses, and to provide useful information to coastal decision-makers and the public.

News Briefs

Deepest U.S. Coral Reef is Confirmed Off Florida
Marine researchers have discovered the deepest coral reef in the United States off the coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico.   Lying in about 250 feet of water, the reef was first tentatively identified in 1999, but it took additional research to determine that it was a living reef.  The deep reef is located on Pulley Ridge, and is about three miles wide and twenty miles long.   The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is examining the research on the reef and will decide whether or not to restrict fishing in the area.

New Federal Oceans Committee
President Bush has signed an executive order to create a new cabinet-level committee to coordinate federal ocean policy in response to the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy report released in September. The executive order would direct cabinet secretaries and officials ranging from the Commerce secretary to the National Intelligence director to coordinate ocean-related matters and provide advice on ocean policies. The group, to be led by the chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, is similar in concept to the commission's proposal for an executive branch national oceans council.

Outlying Landing Field
Recently in Raleigh several opponents of the proposed OLF in Washington had their day in court with the Navy. Three environmental groups and Washington and Beaufort Counties are suing to stop the landing field from being built. Based on last week’s hearing, U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle will decide whether to allow the Navy to build the $185 million outlying landing field or require another round of site selection.

Staff News

John Fear joined DCM in December as the coastal reserve research coordinator. John has a Ph.D from the University of North Carolina, and has extensive water quality monitoring experience, particularly on the Neuse River and Pamlico Sound areas.

Jon Giles has joined the Wilmington Office as a field representative. Jon was previously employed by the town of Wrightsville Beach as a development code administrator and CAMA Local Permit Officer. 

On Feb. 28,Rebecca Ellin will join the Coastal Reserve program as the new NERR coastal reserve manager. Rebecca has her master’s degree in Marine Science from the University of South Carolina. She was once a NERR graduate research fellow for the North Inlet-Winyah Bay NERR, and was also a NOAA coastal management fellow for the California Coastal Commission. She is currently an independent contractor for the Morro Bay National Estuary Program.

Dennis Hawthorn,field representative in Elizabeth City, has left Coastal Management to start his own business.

Jonathan Howell, previously the district planner in the Washington Regional Office, is now an assistant major permits coordinator in the Permits and Consistency Unit in Morehead City. 

Rich Weaver has joined the Morehead City office as a major permits coordinator for the Permits and Consistency Unit. Rich has a strong scientific background in coastal resources, and has previously worked at the Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City. 

Our deepest sympathy to Kim Hamilton, field representative in the Elizabeth City Office, on the death of her stepbrother, Sgt. Jeremy Wright. Jeremy was an Army Special Forces soldier who was killed by a bomb in Afghanistan.


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