At a meeting of a N.C. General Assembly commission in Manteo on Wednesday, members of the Outer Banks’ fishing and marine industries and other local officials called on lawmakers to stop regulatory measures that have hampered dredging of local waterways.

A handful of members of the legislature’s Environmental Review Commission spent the day in Dare County visiting Jockey’s Ridge State Park, Jennette’s Pier and the N.C. Aquarium on Roanoke Island.

The bipartisan commission is composed of 18 members of the state House and Senate, chaired by Sen. Norm Sanderson (R-Pamlico) who represents Dare and Hyde counties, and Rep. Jimmy Dixon (R-Duplin). Members of the panel include Sen. Bobby Hanig (R-Currituck).

Among the missions of the non-standing committee is “to evaluate actions of all boards, commissions, departments, and other agencies of the state and local governments related to the environment”, “study on a continuing basis the organization of state government as it relates to the environment”, “make any recommendations it deems appropriate regarding the reorganization and consolidation of environmental regulatory agencies and the recodification of statutes relating to the environment”, among other tasks assigned under a 1987 statute that that created the committee.

Co-Chair Rep. Jimmy Dixon (R-Duplin) opens the meeting in Neptune’s Theater at the N.C. Aquarium on Roanoke Island. SamWalkerOBXNews photo

During the two-hour fact-finding gathering of legislators, a N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries staff member gave details about shellfish restoration programs that receive funding from the legislature.

That was followed by a presentation on dredging of coastal channels, which was the main draw for a nearly-full audience to Neptune’s Theater composed of leaders of the Outer Banks fishing and maritime industries and local government.

N.C. Division of Coastal Management Regulatory Section Chief Jonathan Howell, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wilmington District Deputy Chief Tyler Crumbley and USACE District Counsel Justin McCorcle were the presenters.

McCorcle explained the functions of dredging, how unique North Carolina is in the variety of the over 300 miles of channels the Corps is tasked with maintaining in the Wilmington District, the roles that federal and state governments play in dredging, the process and vessels used, and the types of projects that the Corps’ dredges are used for.

Howell relayed information on the variety of regulatory agencies, types of permitting required, and the process that takes places to get dredging projects permitted at the state level, along with coordination with the variety of agencies that handle environmental protection policies.

Crumbley gave details on the federal permitting requirements and the Corps’ role.

McCorcle then shared how limited federal funding for dredging is divided among and harbors from Currituck to Calabash.

The Fiscal Year 2023 continuing resolution budgeted $77,046,000 to the Wilmington District, with only seven channels and harbors receiving the funds.

SamWalkerOBXNews photo

That includes $7,265,000 for Manteo (Shallowbag) Bay, which also covers Oregon Inlet, $3,665,000 for Rollinson Channel (Hatteras Inlet), $560,000 for Silver Lake Harbor at Ocracoke, and $15,805,000 for the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway that runs the length of the coast.

McCorcle said Rollinson Channel funds are not enough to completely solve the issues of the near-constant shoaling in the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry channel.

Later on, McCorcle noted that the commander of the Wilmington District was on Capitol Hill at the same time as the meeting lobbying North Carolina’s congressional delegation for more funding for dredging.

Rep. Dixon opened the floor to the public that signed up to comment, which you can watch in the video above, or click here.

Following the comments, which included references to a boating accident three days earlier off Oregon Inlet that killed Capt. Charlie Griffin and left Mate Chad Dunn missing as endemic of the lack of safe access through the treacherous waterway, Sen. Hanig made an impassioned plea to fix the problems on the regulatory level that have delayed dredging the channels along the Outer Banks.

Holding up a printout of the 13-page slideshow that detailed the regulatory hurdles facing dredging projects, Hanig said there was one topic not mentioned during the presentation.

“Public safety, not one time,” Hanig said.

“There’s a human element to everything we’re talking about today,” Hanig said. “This is important to the people of our community.”

He also referenced the Hatteras Inlet ferry channel as key to not only commerce for Ocracoke, but also that it’s just an extension of N.C. 12 and the only connection for the island to the outside world.

“There’s no reason we can’t keep our waterways clear,” Hanig said. “There’s no reason that a hard-working man or woman has to risk their life every single day to go out of that inlet and make a living.”

Newly-appointed Division of Coastal Management Director Tancred Miller asked to speak just before the meeting adjourned to address some of the concerns raised.

“We are open to conversations, we will be open to looking for solutions,” Miller said. “If there are changes required in the way we operate, we are open to making those changes.”

The post Outer Banks watermen call on lawmakers to cut dredging red tape appeared first on Island Free Press.

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Credit: Original content published here.

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