State coastal agency issues request for proposals to develop regional biological assessment for North Carolina beach fill projects

Raleigh

RALEIGH – The state Division of Coastal Management has issued a request for proposals to provide technical assistance in developing a North Carolina Regional Biological Assessment for sand placement projects on North Carolina beaches. The goal of the project is to achieve a more comprehensive and streamlined permitting process for beach nourishment projects while protecting threatened and endangered species along the coast.

“This project will help us addressrecent federal actions to designate critical habitat area for threatened and endangered species, such as loggerhead sea turtles, and the implications of those actions on the permitting of beach and inlet management projects,” said Braxton Davis, director of the Division of Coastal Management.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service earlier this year designated several coastal beaches in North Carolina and other states as critical habitat for the threatened Northwest Atlantic Ocean population of loggerhead sea turtles. In addition, the National Marine Fisheries Service has designated in-water critical habitat for loggerhead sea turtles in 36 areas throughout the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, including North Carolina. Additional designations of critical habitat are anticipated for other coastal species that are listed as endangered or threatened, such as the Red Knot shorebird. These designations have the potential to impact the permitting of a wide variety of federally-permitted and federally-funded coastal projects.

To address this issue, the Division of Coastal Management met with other state and federal resource and regulatory agencies and local government officials to discuss concerns regarding the length of time and the number of agencies that need to be consulted during the permitting process when a beach management or dredging project may impact threatened and endangered species, critical habitats, or essential fish habitats in coastal North Carolina.

The development of acoast-wide regional biological assessment can reduce permit delays and costs by outlining specific project designs, mitigation measures, and monitoring requirements that would have to be met for a typical beach nourishment or sand placement project. When those predetermined criteria have been met, an applicant would not be required to conduct a project-specific consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

An interagency Technical Advisory Group was also established to assist in reviewing proposals and provide guidance in developing the regional biological assessment. The advisory group includes staff from the state divisions of Coastal Management, Water Resources, and Marine Fisheries, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Marine Fisheries Service.

The request for proposals is available online at https://www.ips.state.nc.us/ips/AGENCY/PDF/10525200.pdf .

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