Summer 2012

Director's Note:

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 And please visit our website at for additional information about our program.


Braxton Davis, DCM Director

In this Issue:

  • Letters Highlight DCM Customer Service

  • DCM and DWQ Work to Further Streamline Coastal Permitting in Buffer Areas

  • Renewed Focus on Compliance Assistance

  • CRC Draft Sea-Level Rise Policy Development

  • Estuarine Shoreline Mapping Project Milestone

  • New and Recertified N.C. Clean Marinas

  • Public Hearings on Oceanfront Erosion Rates Scheduled

  • DCM honors Kill Devil Hills LPO

  • 40th anniversary of the Federal Coastal Zone Management Act

  • Coastal Reserve Programs

  • Legislative Update

  • Legal Update

Letters Highlight DCM Customer Service
The efforts of DCM staff to provide the best customer service were recognized recently by some of our customers.

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
The divisions of Coastal Management and Water Quality have updated an agreement that allows DCM permitting staff to review and approve certain activities in the Neuse River and Tar-Pamlico River riparian buffer areas. These changes will allow DCM to process certain applications under the CAMA Minor Permit program, rather than using the longer and more expensive CAMA Major Permit process, saving our applicants time and money. 

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

Renewed Focus on Compliance Assistance
The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources has started implementing a three-tiered approach to enforcement, with the severity of enforcement response increasing for each tier. Under this approach, DCM’s regulatory and compliance staff is continuing to provide guidance for projects requiring a CAMA permit and monitor permitted projects so that staff can offer compliance assistance to the community. DCM field representatives and compliance representatives strive to detect potential violations early in the development process so the project and the permittee may be guided toward compliance with Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) rules and avoid enforcement actions. When voluntary compliance cannot be achieved, DCM uses the tiered enforcement program to provide fair but firm enforcement of the CRC’s development rules.

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. 

For more information, contact DCM compliance coordinator Roy Brownlow at

CRC Draft Sea-Level Rise Policy Development 
During the past two years, the Coastal Resources Commission and DCM have been working to draft a sea-level rise policy for North Carolina. The policy, and sea-level rise in general, have been the subject of much recent debate in the N.C. General Assembly and the media. The following provides  a brief timeline of the policy’s 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

Estuarine Shoreline Mapping Project Milestone  
How many miles of North Carolina’s estuarine shoreline are bulkheaded? How many docks and piers exist on a particular waterway? How much of the shoreline is fronted by marsh?

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.

For more information, contact Kevin McVerry at or Ken Richardson at

New and recertified N.C. Clean Marinas 
Six coastal marinas – Mona Black Marina, Federal Point Yacht Club and Carolina Beach State Park, all in Carolina Beach; Coinjock Marina in Coinjock, N.C.; the Boathouse in Beaufort, N.C.; and Harbor Oaks Boataminium in Carolina Beach, N.C.  – have recently been certified as North Carolina Clean Marinas, a designation given to marinas that exceed the state’s environmental regulations. In addition to the three newcomers, six coastal marinas have been recertified as N.C. Clean Marinas: Cypress Landing Marina, Harbour Village Marina, Wilmington Marine Center, Joyner Marina, Southport Marina and New Bern Grand Marina.

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 at

Public Hearings on Oceanfront Erosion Rates Scheduled
The CRC will conduct eight public hearings in August and September on a proposal to incorporate updated long-term average annual erosion rates into the state’s oceanfront development rules.

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
5 p.m. Aug. 29 – Sea Trail Golf Resort and Convention Center, 75A Clubhouse Road, Sunset Beach
2 p.m. Sept. 5 – Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department, 215 Black Road, Ocracoke
5 p.m. Sept. 6 – N.C. Division of Coastal Management, 400 Commerce Ave., Morehead City
3 p.m. Sept. 11 – Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education, 1160 Village Lane, Corolla
7 p.m. Sept. 11 – Kill Devil Hills Town Hall, 102 Town Hall Drive, Kill Devil Hills
3 p.m. Sept. 13 – Surf City Town Hall, 241 North New River Drive, Surf City
5 p.m. Sept. 18 – North Topsail Beach City Hall, 2008 Loggerhead Court, North Topsail Beach

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 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

DCM Honors Kill Devil Hills LPO
DCM director Braxton Davis recently presented a certificate to Donna Elliott, local permit officer for the Town of Kill Devil Hills, recognizing her 25 years of service as an LPO for the town. Local Permit Officers in coastal communities issue CAMA Minor Permits through a cooperative agreement with the division.

40th Anniversary of the Federal Coastal Zone Management Act
The Federal Coastal Zone Management Act is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. One of the least known but most important federal environmental laws ever passed, the CZMA has protected America’s coasts since its passage in 1972. The CZMA facilitated coastal states working together to plan the development of America’s shoreline while also protecting it, and also called for the formation of National Estuarine Research Reserves – protected areas along the coast where long-term research about the health of America's marine ecosystems could be conducted. North Carolina is home to four NERR sites, natural areas that provide research data and also serve to educate local decision-makers and the public about coastal issues. NOAA’s Office of Coastal and Ocean Resource Management recently produced a video celebrating the 40th anniversary of this landmark act:

Coastal Reserve Programs
The Coastal Training Program recently hosted two “Estuarine Shorelines: Value, Regulation, and Stabilization” workshops in Beaufort and Wilmington. The goal of these workshops was to introduce participants to the value and function of estuarine habitats; how estuarine habitats and shoreline stabilization structures may be affected by sea level rise; the techniques and design elements of all methods of estuarine shoreline stabilization; and permitting requirements of all methods of estuarine shoreline stabilization, including alternative methods. The workshops included field trips to marsh sill stabilization projects. The 103 attendees included homeowners, marine contractors, engineers, planners and state agency staff.

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
HB 819 Modify Coastal Management Policies
Section 1 specifically names in the General Statute the 20 counties designated as coastal area counties.

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
Section 12 requires that grants for projects with partnering local municipalities awarded prior to the effective date of the act be transferred directly to the local municipality. This would direct DCM to transfer an $800,000 public access grant awarded to the N.C. Division of Aquariums for land acquisition in Carolina Beach.

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.