1st Quarter 2016

First Quarter 2016

Director’s Note
In this edition of CAMAgram, I’d like to highlight a part of our program that often works behind the scenes, but is a critical component of our state coastal management program. Our division has seven staff in the Policy and Planning Section who are responsible for a wide variety of activities – including policy development, writing legislative reports, providing technical assistance to local governments, strategic planning, managing coastal access grants, and running our Clean Marinas and Marine Pumpout grant programs. I want to highlight some of the great work this small section within DCM does to protect the North Carolina coast.

The Policy and Planning Section works to support the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission (CRC), Coastal Resources Advisory Council, and CRC Science Panel. They assist with setting up meetings and agendas, drafting rule language, performing fiscal analyses for proposed rules, arranging public hearings, and keeping track of rules throughout the complicated rulemaking process. They also handle federal grant programs and coordinate state interagency reviews of proposed federal activities along the North Carolina coast.

The staff also work on complex coastal policy issues, many of which you can read about below. For example, the staff are currently working on living shorelines, coastal hazards, and beachfront management issues, to name just a few. They also calculate long-term average annual oceanfront shoreline change rates, which are used for oceanfront setbacks.

The division’s three planners support local governments in developing and updating local CAMA land use plans, and also manage our beach and waterfront access grant program, which provides local governments with matching grants for projects to improve pedestrian access to the state's beaches and waterways. 

Our clean marina coordinator works with coastal marinas to certify them in our Clean Marina Program, and also coordinates our Clean Boater and Pumpout grant programs. You can read more about those programs below as well.

The work of the policy and planning staff not only directly supports the regulatory work of the division, it has a significant impact on the overall well-being of coastal North Carolina.

I’d also like to fill you in on some other important news – I’ve recently been asked to assume the responsibility of overseeing the Division of Marine Fisheries in addition to leading the Division of Coastal Management. You can read more about this development in the first article below.

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 of Coastal Management and Marine Fisheries

In this issue:

  • Davis named to lead marine fisheries agency
  • Rule changes for land use planning benefit local governments
  • DCM works to advance living shorelines in North Carolina
  • CRC approves “development line” rules
  • CRC releases updated sea level rise study report
  • DCM completes beach erosion study
  • Clean Marina program news – resilient marinas and inland marinas
  • Pumpout grant funding available
  • Buckridge Coastal Reserve will soon add a vital missing piece
  • Sustainable tourism workshop highlights importance of coastal resource conservation
  • DCM has a new website
  • Staff kudos

Davis named to lead marine fisheries agency

State environmental department Secretary Donald R. van der Vaart has named DCM director Braxton Davis to also lead the state’s Division of Marine Fisheries.

The divisions will remain separate entities housed under the state’s environmental agency, and Davis will lead both divisions as director. The department intends to examine ways in which the two divisions can achieve efficiencies in operations.

“Braxton’s knowledge of state and national coastal issues, and his experience as director of our coastal management division, made him the perfect choice to lead both groups,” said Secretary van der Vaart. “His extensive background in coastal science and management will allow him to bring these two groups together in an effective and exciting way, and enhance protection of our state’s coastal and marine resources.”

Davis began his tenure as director of the state’s coastal agency in September 2011, after serving as policy director for the South Carolina coastal program. He holds a doctorate in marine affairs from the University of Rhode Island, a master’s degree in biological sciences from Florida International University, and a bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences from the University of Virginia.

“I am honored by the trust placed in me to lead these two very important coastal divisions,” Davis said. “Both divisions have a long history of working collaboratively in many areas, including regulatory, research, planning, conservation, and outreach activities, and I believe this move will only strengthen the partnerships we’ve developed over the years. I look forward to continuing our collaboration, and bringing both teams together to find more ways that we can improve our work and services.

“I plan to listen to, and work closely with staff, commission members, and other interested groups – both internal and external – to identify opportunities for efficiencies and improvements,” Davis continued. “I hope to develop draft recommendations for the future of both agencies later this year.”

Davis named Mike Lopazanski, chief of the coastal division’s policy and planning section, as acting assistant director of the Division of Coastal Management. Col. Jim Kelley will continue to serve as acting assistant director of Marine Fisheries, a role he has held since February. Lopazanski has worked for the coastal management division for 25 years, and has been head of its policy section since 2012. Kelley has been with the N.C. Marine Patrol for nearly 27 years and has served as its leader since February 2014.

Rule changes for land use planning benefit local governments
Amendments to the division’s 15A NCAC 7B Land Use Planning Guidelines and 15A NCAC 7L Planning and Management Grant Program rules will make it easier for local governments to implement and revise their local Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA) land use plans.

DCM staff held two workshops with local elected officials, local government planning staff and other interested parties to gain input on the rule revisions, and also relied on DCM staff experience in implementing the program as well as a previous study of land use planning by the Coastal Resources Commission. The amended guidelines provide increased flexibility for plan content and format; clarify that updates and amendments are voluntary; facilitate streamlined plan approval, amendment, and update processes; and promote integrated planning efforts.  

The intent of the amendments is to reduce regulatory and procedural burdens on local governments and to shift the program’s emphasis toward local government policies in support of coastal management goals.

Land use plans are currently certified by the Coastal Resources Commission at regular commission meetings. At their most recent meeting, the commission adopted a resolution to encourage the N.C. General Assembly to amend CAMA to delegate certification authority for local CAMA land use plans to the department, which would also speed up plan amendment and update approvals.

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

DCM works to advance living shorelines in North Carolina
Over the past several years, division staff have been working to encourage the use of “living shorelines” – options that use native materials such as plants and oyster shells – as alternatives to traditional bulkheads for shoreline stabilization and erosion control in estuarine areas of North Carolina. In cooperation with the Division of Marine Fisheries, DCM developed a “Living Shoreline Strategy” that addresses outreach, public awareness, financial incentives and short- and long-term implementation actions needed to advance the use of living shorelines in the state. 

Historically there has not been wide-spread use of living shorelines in North Carolina, in part due to unfamiliarity on the part of marine contractors and property owners with the techniques and their effectiveness, and a lack of information on long-term cost comparisons of living shoreline projects in comparison with more traditional shoreline stabilization methods.

In addition to concerted efforts aimed at outreach and training for property owners and contractors, DCM staff are working to streamline the permitting process for living shorelines, and for marsh sills in particular. The current General Permit for the construction of marsh sills requires coordination with the divisions of Marine Fisheries and Water Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). After consultation with other resource agencies, the Coastal Resources Commission recently approved for public hearing changes to the General Permit that would remove the requirement that DCM coordinate with Marine Fisheries and Water Resources to help expedite the review process. DCM will continue to coordinate with the USACE and other federal and state agencies to review the specific conditions of the state General Permit and identify opportunities to further reduce permit processing timelines while ensuring adequate review for impacts to other public trust resources.

For more information, please contact Daniel Govoni at Daniel.govoni@ncdenr.gov.

CRC approves “development line” rules
In February, the Coastal Resources Commission adopted rule language that will allow oceanfront communities to establish a “development line” for oceanfront construction. The rules became effective April 1.

The new rules allow oceanfront communities with large-scale beach nourishment projects or inlet relocation projects to establish a “development line” as an alternative to the current “static vegetation line.” A static vegetation line (which represents the vegetation line that existed at the time of beach nourishment) must be established and used for measuring construction setbacks for any beach fill project of 300,000 cubic yards or more.

A “development line” would be a line established by a local government to represent the seaward-most allowable location of oceanfront development, provided the development or structure can meet the setback measured from the first line of stable natural vegetation. Under the development line rule, if vegetation has successfully established seaward following a beach nourishment project, buildings and accessory structures could move seaward up to the approved development line as long as other minimum setbacks are met. Local governments would need to request approval for a development line from the CRC.

Prior rules required local governments to receive a static line exception based on a demonstrated local government commitment to beach nourishment in order to allow development to use the construction setback measured from the vegetation line following a beach nourishment project. Under the static line exception procedures, if a local government does not demonstrate to the CRC its long-term commitment to beach nourishment, construction setbacks must be measured from the “static line.”

Communities can choose to establish a development line, or retain the existing static vegetation line and exception process.

For more information, please contact Ken Richardson at ken.richardson@ncdenr.gov.

CRC releases updated sea level rise study report
The Coastal Resources Commission delivered its updated sea level rise study report on March 1 to the N.C. General Assembly, as required by Session Law 2012-202. The report, prepared by the CRC’s Science Panel, looks 30 years into the future and uses the most up-to-date scientific research and long-term tide gauge data to project rates of sea level rise for the North Carolina coast. It makes those projections for five different areas along the coast, rather than projecting one single rate of rise for the entire state.  In addition to inviting public comment on the draft, the report was submitted to Dr. Robert Dean and Dr. James Houston, nationally renowned sea level rise experts, for technical review and comment.

“The report is an important tool that coastal local governments can use for future planning,” said commission chair Frank Gorham. “It gives a range of sea level values that might occur by 2045 across the N.C. coast, and can help planners estimate risks associated with sea level rise and accompanying coastal flooding during that time.

“Our focus now should be on non-regulatory, planning-based approaches to this problem,” Gorham continued, “recognizing that many programs that are already in place to address coastal erosion and flooding will also assist in protecting against potential sea level rise.”

The most current report is available for download on the division’s website. The Science Panel will continue to update the report every five years. 

For more information, please contact Tancred Miller at Tancred.miller@ncdenr.gov.

DCM completes beach erosion study
Session Law 2015-241 required the Division of Coastal Management to “study and develop a proposed strategy for preventing, mitigating, and remediating the effects of beach erosion.” The division’s recently completed study report includes a review of relevant literature and previous studies in North Carolina, an overview of an experimental structural approach to mitigating beach erosion in South Carolina, and draws upon the division’s 40 years of experience in analyzing shoreline change and permitting oceanfront development and engineering projects. Public input was also appended to the report.

Mitigating and remediating beach erosion includes several activities that are already in use in North Carolina, as well as others that are being developed. Current activities used in the state and elsewhere include beach nourishment, sandbag placement, hard structures (for example, terminal groins, seawalls, and jetties), inlet realignment, and relocation of structures. Some areas outside North Carolina use offshore breakwaters, wave energy dissipaters, and experimental technologies to help alleviate erosion. 

The report concludes that a state‐level beach management strategy is needed to better understand local and regional sediment budgets, maintain a healthy ecosystem, protect the public’s right to access and use the beach, protect property rights, and afford property owners (both public and private) with storm protection. Any new strategy should focus on continued investments in beach nourishment as the preferred alternative for mitigating beach erosion. The two largest obstacles associated with this approach are having dedicated, predictable funding sources and the identification of long‐term supplies of beach‐compatible sand resources.

For more information, please contact Ken Richardson at ken.richardson@ncdenr.gov.

Clean Marina program news – resilient marinas and inland marinas
North Carolina’s popular Clean Marina program could soon evolve into a program that not only helps marinas protect coastal water quality and the environment, but also helps them learn how to better withstand coastal storms. The Clean and Resilient Marinas Program would complement Clean Marina practices already in place and provide additional recommendations to strengthen local marinas’ ability to withstand natural and man-made disasters. 

Pat Durrett, DCM’s Clean Marina coordinator, is working with representatives from South Carolina, Georgia and Florida to develop a regional Clean and Resilient Marianas Program, based on a program already in use by some Gulf of Mexico states. The program will focus on issues such as emergency preparedness, stormwater management, and erosion control to assist marina operators in protecting human life and safety, protecting vessels from damage, and minimizing property damage from natural and man-made disasters, including hurricanes, nor’easters and other events.

Inland Clean Marinas
The Clean Marina program is moving inland! Our colleagues at the Wildlife Resources Commission recently began a Clean Marina certification program for inland marinas. Based on our coastal Clean Marina program, the new inland program is still working to certify their first marinas. We’re excited to welcome them to the Clean Marina family!

Clean Boater Program
The North Carolina Clean Boater program is an important part of the North Carolina Clean Marina program where boaters can show that they care about the environment. By adopting pollution prevention measures and using best management practices, North Carolina Clean Boaters can do their part in keeping our waterways and shores clean by learning and teaching clean boating habits and making sure watercraft are properly registered and meet the state safety requirements.

To become a North Carolina Clean Boater:

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

Pumpout grant funding available
The division currently has $116,000 available through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Clean Vessel Act Program to continue funding our marine sewage pumpout grant program. The program, established as a result of the federal Clean Vessel Act of 1992, provides financial assistance to marinas and other boat-docking facilities for the installation and renovation of pumpout and dump stations. Since its establishment in 1995, the program has awarded more than $634,938 in grants for 99 pumpout projects to 88 marinas, including several municipal governments, and one state government operation.

The Clean Vessel Act provides grant funds for the construction, replacement, renovation and maintenance of facilities that assist recreational boaters in properly disposing of on-board septic waste. The program also provides information and education about the benefits of pumpout systems.

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

Buckridge Coastal Reserve will soon add a vital missing piece thanks to federal wetlands grant, military funding
At more than 27,000 acres, the Buckridge Coastal Reserve in Tyrrell County is already the largest of the 10 sites in the state’s Coastal Reserve program. Thanks to a grant from the National Coastal Wetlands Program and additional funding from the U.S. Air Force, the reserve will soon acquire an additional 2,040 acres, an area known as the Woodley Tract.

The addition will strengthen the link for more than 400,000 acres of upland and aquatic habitat in the area, including the Buckridge Reserve, Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge, Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, and tens of thousands of acres of other protected lands.

The reserve’s partnership with the U.S. Air Force and The Nature Conservancy through the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program will provide 50 percent of the purchase price of the property, and will help secure operational boundaries around the Dare County Bombing Range. 

Located about 15 miles south of Columbia, N.C., the Buckridge site is part of the East Dismal Swamp, a wetlands complex of more than 320,000 acres in Dare, Tyrrell and Washington counties. The area provides habitat for many rare, threatened and endangered species, including the red wolf, bald eagle, Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon, red-cockaded woodpecker, and American alligator.

For more information, please contact Woody Webster at woody.webster@ncdenr.gov.

Sustainable tourism workshop highlights importance of coastal resource conservation
Coastal North Carolina relies on tourism to support local economies and provide jobs. Many visitors to the coast come because of beautiful views, pristine water quality, local seafood, and opportunities to be on the water and view wildlife. In an effort to preserve the cultural heritage and natural resources on the Crystal Coast while maintaining North Carolina’s robust tourism industry, local businesses participated in a Promoting Sustainable Tourism workshop in Beaufort this month. The workshop, hosted by the Coastal Reserve program and sponsored by the Carteret County Tourism Development Authority and NC GreenTravel, showcased how local businesses can implement green practices and use them as a marketing advantage.

Paula Gillikin, central sites manager for the N.C. Coastal Reserve, discussed how a healthy environment impacts tourism and how tourism-related businesses can contribute to coastal resource protection. For example, businesses can make a difference by reducing their use of single-use plastics such as drinking straws and water bottles, and encouraging their patrons to do the same. Business owners also learned how they can protect an unusual type of natural resource, the wild horses at the Rachel Carson Reserve and Cape Lookout National Seashore, by educating visitors about the importance of keeping their distance from the animals.

The workshop highlighted the department’s NC GreenTravel program, where businesses and organizations of all kinds can become certified and recognized for their commitment to sustainability. The application process may take some time and thought, but Tom Rhodes with NC GreenTravel expressed his willingness to help businesses with the process. Rhodes emphasized that the NC GreenTravel certification will give businesses a competitive edge as more travelers become interested in the environment and sustainability.

By encouraging sustainable tourism, the North Carolina coast and its wild and beautiful places will remain a desirable vacation destination for generations to come.

Workshop presentations and resources can be found on the Coastal Reserve website.

For more information, contact Whitney Jenkins at whitney.jenkins@ncdenr.gov.

DCM has a new website
You’ve probably noticed a new look and feel for the division’s website. It’s part of a change to the Department of Environmental Quality’s website, which took place in mid-February. As part of the state’s Digital Commons initiative, our new website has a similar look and feel to other agency websites across state government. This initiative gives users a similar experience across different agency websites, and allows the agencies to share resources, reduce costs, and standardize web processes. It includes a simplified navigation structure, consistent design, and accessibility considerations for disabled users. We’ve also made the site easier to use on mobile devices such as tablets and smart phones.

If you have any questions about our new site, or need help finding something, please contact our public information officer, Michele Walker, at Michele.walker@ncdenr.gov.

Staff kudos
In each newsletter we like to highlight recent kudos for our staff. Some nice words for the entire Morehead City office staff from a customer:

“Working with everyone on the staff in Morehead City is a pleasure. That includes everybody from the director through the admin staff. We used to dread the entire CAMA permitting process. Now we can look forward to getting things done in a timely and professional manner. We have respect for each and every one of you.”

Coastal training coordinator Whitney Jenkins received the following remarks from a participant in a workshop for realtors:

“Thanks so much again for all you and the presenters do to keep us informed. Please keep me informed of other workshops in the area and of course any projects that we could provide people power for. 

“Y’all are special and you can tell how much you love and care about what you do.”

DCM attorney Christy Goebel received this email from a plaintiff in a variance case:

“[We] would like to thank you so much for your help with the variance. You made the process very easy for us and made us feel very comfortable.”

Paula Gillikin and Lori Davis at the Rachel Carson Reserve received these comments from a university professor following a field trip for her students:

“I just wanted to drop you a note to thank you both for your time, energy and vast wealth of knowledge -- and the generosity of spirit in which you shared with our undergraduate students. We loved our tour of the Rachel Carsen Reserve and this greatly impacted our course work…”

“I have to mention that our Ecojustice students have come back to class energized about the work of NCDENR and NOAA is doing -- even to the point of wanting to work with you guys or try to coordinate an internship with NOAA. Our students felt that, despite the fact that you were the knowledgeable 'experts,' you communicated your research and knowledge in a way that was very effective (especially for our non-science majors) and you also were very receptive to their contributions -- especially when you asked them to email you results of their work/studies. This meant a lot to them (and us as coordinators).

“I can't say enough about the how hospitable you were, especially in how flexible and cheerful in making arrangements for our group. We also want to recognize how relevant and important the research being done at your facility is.”

A customer in Wilmington expressed his appreciation for the Wilmington office staff to our manager of major permits:

“He told me that he wanted to express his (and his firm’s) appreciation to DCM for the way that the DCM staff in Wilmington have worked with him on the Brunswick Town (Debbie Wilson, Tara MacPherson, and Heather Coasts are the ones who have been involved). He said that our staff down there have been some of the best he has ever worked with.”

 From a local public services director, regarding the Morehead City office staff:

“I would like to thank your staff for the excellent service provided to me in acquiring several general permits to dredge the Town’s waterways. From the first contact at your office, Receptionist Connie Mason, to your Field Officers Heather Styron and Ryan Davenport, to your District Manager Roy Brownlow, I was treated in a friendly and professional manor. The level of service I received was top notch and would be impossible to improve on. Your team went above and beyond to ensure that my needs were met. There are many other organizations that could learn a thing or two from your operation. My compliments to you and your staff on a job well done.”

From a customer, regarding major permits manager Doug Huggett:

“Just a note to let you know I received a CAMA permit renewal for one client and a renewal/minor modification for another today (Sunday) from Doug Huggett. His willingness to work weekends in order to try and catch up is certainly worthy of praise.”

A customer sent these comments regarding Wilmington field representative Jason Dail:

“I just wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed working with Jason Dail over the years. Sometimes these CAMA permits can be frustrating for sales and building but Jason always has things well thought out and presents to me in a way I can relate to customer very well… Jason is most pleasurable and knowledgeable to work with.” 

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