1st Quarter 2014

Director's Note:

We all know that the coast is a place where significant economic potential, competing demands, sensitive environmental resources, and multiple federal, state, and local jurisdictions converge. It is a place where public and private rights exist in a delicate balance. And it is a place of constant change.

This is certainly true in North Carolina, where coastal tourism contributes more than $3 billion to the state’s economy each year, and development continues to expand along our 320 miles of ocean beaches, 12,000 miles of estuarine shoreline, and 2 million acres of sounds, creeks and marshes. Over time, the regulatory environment has also expanded. For example, beach and inlet management projects can be subject to a complex range of federal, state and local jurisdictions and rules that collectively attempt to balance economic opportunities, property rights and environmental stewardship. For this reason, it is important for the regulatory community to work closely with our stakeholders – and with each other – to find solutions to new issues and opportunities that arise.

In this issue of the CAMAgram, you’ll see that the Division of Coastal Management has been tasked by the Coastal Resources Commission to conduct a comprehensive review of ocean inlet management in our state. A range of recreational, commercial and military activities rely on safe navigation through ocean inlets and are vital economic engines for the coast. The dynamic movements of inlets can also present the most significant beach erosion hazards for oceanfront development. Through our ongoing study, we hope to identify regulatory and management changes that will improve the efficiency of inlet management projects and reduce our vulnerabilities to coastal erosion.

We also note that the division hosted a workshop in March to address recent proposals by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service to designate “critical habitat” along North Carolina’s beaches for the protection of threatened loggerhead sea turtles. Through interagency cooperation and the involvement of representatives from beach communities and other stakeholders, we are working as a community with the goal of improving the permitting process for beach projects while conducting more meaningful, comprehensive evaluations of threats to, and mitigation alternatives for, endangered species.

We sincerely appreciate the positive working relationships we have with our partner agencies and coastal communities in North Carolina. It’s not always easy, but we know that by working together, we give ourselves the best chance to maintain the delicate balance we have on the beautiful coast of North Carolina.

As always, we hope that you will share this newsletter with colleagues and friends, and let us know if you have any suggestions for future newsletters. If you would like to have your name added or removed from the email list, please email your request to Michele.Walker@ncdenr.gov. Additional coastal program information can also be found on our website, http://www.nccoastalmanagement.net.

Braxton Davis, Director, NC Division of Coastal Management


In this Issue:

CRC Holding Public Meetings on Inlet Management

Division Hosts Interagency Workshop Related to Recent Critical Habitat Designations

DCM Gets a New Website

DCM Co-hosts Workshops to Discuss Future Directions of CAMA Land Use Planning

DCM Rules Review Yields Proposals for Rule Changes in 2014 

Land Use Planning/Public Access Territory Changes

Photo Contest Highlights Beauty of N.C. Coastal Reserves 

New Bern’s BridgePoint Marina Certified as North Carolina Clean Marina

2014 CRC Meeting Dates

Paula Gillikin Receives DENR Sustainability Award

Staff Kudos

Legal Update

CRC Holding Public Meetings on Inlet Management

The N.C. Coastal Resources Commission recently held a series of public meetings in March and April to hear from local government officials, citizens, and stakeholders about specific concerns related to the management of ocean inlets in North Carolina. The meetings were held in Buxton, Beaufort, Ocean Isle Beach and Wilmington.

These regional meetings are part of a new, comprehensive review of inlet management in the state by the CRC to more fully understand and respond to issues confronted by local governments and stakeholders in these dynamic areas. The commission is particularly interested in receiving input on inlet dredging issues, channel realignment projects, development standards for inlet areas, emergency measures such as beach bulldozing and sandbags, erosion rates in inlet areas, and terminal groins.

Information and public input from the meetings will be compiled by DCM staff and used to develop preliminary recommendations for the CRC to consider at their upcoming meeting, May 14-15, in Atlantic Beach. More information on the public meetings and the study is available on our website.

For more information, contact Matt Slagel at matthew.slagel@ncdenr.gov.

Division Hosts Interagency Workshop Related to Recent Critical Habitat Designations
The Division of Coastal Management is coordinating an effort to address the implications of recent federal proposals to designate critical habitat area for threatened and endangered species on the permitting of beach and inlet management projects.

On March 19, DCM joined other state and federal resource and regulatory agencies to meet with local government officials to discuss ways to streamline the permitting process for beach nourishment projects. Specifically, local governments have concerns regarding the length of time and the number of agencies that need to be consulted during the permitting process when a project may impact threatened and endangered species, critical habitats, and essential fish habitats in coastal North Carolina.

New Endangered Species Act consultations with federal agencies could potentially be handled in two ways – either through a coast-wide Programmatic Biological Opinion (PBO) or through an applicant-specific Habitat Conservation Plan. The coast-wide PBO would include specific criteria that would have to be met by each applicant. When met, an applicant would not have to conduct a project-specific consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Another option would be for an applicant to develop a Biological Opinion or Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for a specific subregion, which could cover the applicant for future projects that would affect threatened and endangered species.

Based on local government interests in a coast-wide approach, DCM will work with federal and state partners to develop the PBO for beach nourishment projects. During the March 19 meeting, DCM announced the availability of funds to sponsor a coast-wide biological assessment. The division is currently in the process of assembling an interagency Technical Advisory Group to develop a call for proposals and to assist in reviewing proposals and reports. The advisory group will include DCM, the state divisions of Water Resources and Marine Fisheries, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Marine Fisheries Service.

For more information, contact Kevin Hart at Kevin.Hart@ncdenr.gov.

DCM Gets a New Website

The Division of Coastal Management has a new website! DCM’s website has been redesigned to more closely resemble the format of the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources website, and reorganized to help our customers find information more quickly and easily. We’ve also added some new features to highlight important issues and events, along with an RSS feed for news releases. Check out the new site at /about/divisions/coastal-management.

For more information, or to provide feedback on the new website, please contact Michele Walker at Michele.walker@ncdenr.gov.

DCM Co-hosts Workshops to Discuss Future Directions of CAMA Land Use Planning

The Division of Coastal Management is hosting two regional workshops to work with local planning staff and elected officials on future directions for the CAMA Land Use Planning Program. The workshops are being co-hosted by the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership, the Business Alliance for a Sound Economy and the North Carolina Coastal Federation.

The first workshop was held in October in Wilmington. A second workshop planned for Plymouth in February was rescheduled twice due to winter weather, and will now be held May 22 at the Vernon G. James Research and Extension Center, 207 Research Station Rd, Plymouth. Everyone who was scheduled for the February workshop will not need to re-register. Visit the division’s Coastal Training Program website for more information on this workshop.

Discussion at the Wilmington workshop centered on local staff training on the land use planning process and data availability, a more streamlined process and approval of land use plans and amendments, and the need for differing approaches to planning for smaller and larger communities. DCM staff will prepare a complete summary of the workshops once both are completed.

For more information, please contact Mike Lopazanski at Mike.Lopazanski@ncdenr.gov.

DCM Rules Review Yields Proposals for Rule Changes in 2014

The Division of Coastal Management recently completed its annual review of the Coastal Resources Commission’s rules and policies, along with the division’s procedures for processing and making decisions on Coastal Area Management Act permits. This review resulted in several new proposals for consideration by the CRC:

  • Amending adjacent property owner notification requirements to streamline exemptions for single-family residences in the Estuarine Shoreline Area of Environmental Concern;
  • Amending the CRC’s rules to allow surface accessways to coastal shorelines (i.e., walkways from private residences to estuarine waters);
  • Evaluating the feasibility of eliminating the beachfront High Hazard Area of Environmental Concern;
  • Streamlining permits associated with upland boat basins so that two separate CAMA general permits are not required for these projects.

DCM received initial approval from the CRC at its February meeting to move forward with these suggested changes during 2014. Draft rule language will be presented to the commission at future meetings.

For more information, please contact David Moye at David.Moye@ncdenr.gov.

Land Use Planning/Public Access Territory Changes

Land use planning and public beach and waterfront access territories were redistributed in January 2014. The Washington district was split between the Morehead City and Elizabeth City district office planners. In addition, all of Onslow County was assigned to the Wilmington district office planner. Please note the changes below:

  • Local governments located in Bertie, Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hertford, Tyrrell, Pasquotank, Perquimans and Washington counties should contact: Charlan Owens, district planner, Elizabeth City.
  • Local governments located in Beaufort, Carteret, Craven, Hyde, and Pamlico counties should contact: Maureen Meehan, district planner, Morehead City.
  • Local governments located in Brunswick, New Hanover, Onslow,andPender counties should contact: Mike Christenbury, district planner, Wilmington.

For more information, please contact Mike Lopazanski at Mike.Lopazanski@ncdenr.gov.

Photo Contest Highlights Beauty of N.C. Coastal Reserves 
Congratulations to the winners of the 2014 N.C. Coastal Reserve Photo Contest! Winning photographs were chosen based on the number of "likes" each photo received from Facebook users on the N.C. Coastal Reserve's Facebook page.See the winning photographs on the reserve program’s website.

The photo contest represents a new opportunity for amateur photographers and coastal enthusiasts to share images of the unique resources found along North Carolina’s coast. Spanning from the Virginia to South Carolina borders, North Carolina’s reserve sites protect a variety of coastal habitats for research and education purposes. Providing access to these sites enhances the public’s understanding of estuarine environments and supports recreational activities such as boating, fishing, wildlife viewing, and photography. The annual photo contest hopes to build upon visitors’ enthusiasm for the animals, plants, and recreation opportunities found at the reserve sites, and inspire appreciation for North Carolina’s coastal ecosystems.

For more information, contact Kate Brogan at kate.brogan@ncdenr.gov.

New Bern’s BridgePoint Marina Certified as North Carolina Clean Marina
The BridgePoint Marina in New Bern is the newest facility to be certified as a North Carolina Clean Marina, a designation given to marinas that exceed minimum regulatory requirements.

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.

Clean Marina is a voluntary program in which marina operators who choose to participate complete an evaluation form about their use of specific best management practices. If a marina meets criteria developed by the N.C. Division of Coastal Management, it will be designated as a North Carolina Clean Marina. Such marinas are eligible to fly the Clean Marina flag and use the logo in their advertising. The flags signal to boaters that a marina cares about the cleanliness of area waterways.

For more information, contact Pat Durrett at pat.durrett@ncdenr.gov.

2014 CRC Meeting Dates
Following are the dates and proposed locations for N.C. Coastal Resources Commission meetings in 2014:

  • May 14-15 (Atlantic Beach)
  • July 30-31 (Beaufort / Pivers Island)
  • Oct. 22-23 (Wilmington)
  • Dec. 17-18 (Beaufort / Pivers Island)

Paula Gillikin Receives DENR Sustainability Award

Rachel Carson Reserve manager Paula Gillikin has been awarded first place in the Individual-Small Project category of the 2013 Department of Environment and Natural Resources Sustainability Awards for a marine debris removal project at the Rachel Carson component of the National Estuarine Research Reserve.

The DENR Sustainability Awards are presented each year to individuals or groups of DENR employees who are committed to being an exemplary role model and leader in implementing the state’s initiatives for responsible environmental stewardship. 

Paula’s projectfocuses on engaging community volunteers, local businesses, and the local municipality in marine debris removal at the Rachel Carson Reserve. Since 2007, nearly 15,000 pounds of debris have been removed from the site. Green practices such as using biodegradable trash bags, re-purposing wood, and recycling plastics and aluminum are incorporated into clean-ups. The clean-ups also provide an opportunity for environmental education related to the impacts of marine debris and the importance of being responsible environmental stewards.

Congratulations Paula!

Staff Kudos

In each newsletter we like to highlight recent kudos for our staff. Holley Snider, field representative in DCM’s Wilmington office, received these accolades from a local property owner:

“I just wanted to comment on how helpful Holley has been throughout the process of getting the CAMA approval for my proposed boat lift and dock. She made the process extremely smooth for us, met us on site before we had even closed the lot and acted as an intermediary between the town and me.  She went above and beyond the call in making sure that I got everything right at the beginning so that I avoided problems and headaches down the line. She was tremendously helpful in guiding me through the process every step of the way and it was a pleasure to work with her.”

A local resident sent an email to DENR senior management with these positive comments about Rachel Carson Reserve site manager Paula Gillikin:

“Yesterday, I experienced another encounter with an exceptional NCDENR employee. Her name is Paula Gillikin. I was referred to her by a town official regarding the rules and regulations concerning an existing osprey nest. I called Ms. Gillikin, who was most helpful, agreed to meet with me on very short notice, relayed to me the requirements, and provided the proper contact information at the Wildlife Resources Commission, who has jurisdiction in this matter. Ms. Gillikin's input and assistance was so helpful. [She] should be commended for her approach to customer service.”

Patricia Hay in the Wilmington office received the following email from a customer she assisted on her second day working in that office:

“[M]ay I say how much I appreciate your very helpful and receptive response to my request for assistance. Your demonstrated personal enthusiasm and initiative truly made my day. Thank you for all your efforts on my behalf and please know the information you have provided is exactly what I needed.” 

Jessi Baker, fisheries resource specialist in Morehead City, received the following praise from a customer:

“I was so impressed with Jessi coming out to our site Saturday. She got right in there and helped … with the clam relocation in spite of the nasty weather. What a good feeling knowing people like her and you are working in the government system. She really went the extra mile on helping us through the complex process of permitting this little project. A true professional!”

DCM is always proud of our staff’s commitment to providing all of our customers with the very best in customer service.

Legal Update of Active Cases

In the North Carolina Supreme Court:

The Riggings HOA v. CRC(New Hanover 09 CVS 2761) – The CRC appealed the Court of Appeals’ Order to the North Carolina Supreme Court (and was granted review of other issues not in the COA dissent) which ultimately held that the CRC should have granted the fifth variance request by the Riggings to allow sandbags to remain indefinitely at the site. The Supreme Court also allowed the Riggings’ Petition for Discretionary Review on cross-appeal issues. The parties have submitted their new briefs and response briefs, and are awaiting word from the Supreme Court about a date for oral argument in this case.

Busik v. CRC and 1118 Longwood(Brunswick 11 CVS 2596) – On April 10, 2014, the North Carolina Supreme Court denied the Busik Petition for Discretionary Review, which sought an appeal from the November 2013 decision of the Court of Appeals which upheld the interpretation of the oceanfront erosion setback rule previously put forth by the CRC, DCM and the Local Permit Officer, that square footage of structures within the setback area is calculated for each structure separately.

Cases in the Office of Administrative Hearings:

Defenders of Wildlife & NWRA v. DCM and NCDOT (13 EHR 16087) – Appeal by Petitioners of DCM’s issuance of the CAMA permit authorizing the Bonner Bridge replacement bridge. The parties are in the discovery phase of this case.