New streamlined approach to sand placement projects saves time and costs

Raleigh, NC

State officials are taking a new approach to expedite the permitting process for certain coastal projects.

The N.C. Division of Coastal Management, in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, recently developed a Statewide Programmatic Biological Opinion that should streamline a portion of the permitting process for beach nourishment projects along North Carolina’s oceanfront.

This new, programmatic approach to the consideration of threatened and endangered species will make the planning and permitting of many beach projects more straightforward, particularly following the 2014 designation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of several coastal beaches in North Carolina as “critical habitat areas” for the threatened loggerhead sea turtle under the federal Endangered Species Act.

“Local governments were concerned that new critical habitat designations would further delay beach projects,” said Braxton Davis, director of the N.C. Division of Coastal Management. “This new approach should cut permitting timelines and reduce costs for routine beach projects.”

The statewide biological opinion will eliminate the requirement for the preparation of individual, project-specific assessments and case-by-case federal reviews of many sand placement projects in North Carolina. This should result in reduced permitting timelines and cost savings for locally-sponsored and federal beach nourishment projects, while continuing to ensure protections for threatened and endangered species. The coast-wide biological opinion outlines specific project designs, mitigation measures and monitoring requirements that would need to be met for a typical beach nourishment project.

The state Division of Coastal Management facilitated this project with several state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Expediting reviews of the more routine beach nourishment projects will result in better environmental outcomes overall by allowing agencies to focus limited resources on the more challenging issues facing our coast,” said Pete Benjamin, field supervisor in the Raleigh office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Bob Keistler, a chief with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, added: “From our perspective, this programmatic approach to corps projects means that coordination timelines and associated costs can be avoided, and that should lead to a more efficient use of our project funds.”

For more information about the sand placement approval process, go to: http://www.saw.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory-Permit-Program/Regulatory-News/Article/1338326/north-carolina-state-programmatic-biological-opinion-nc-spbo-for-coastal-beach/.

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