Saturday, January 7, 2012
Posted by EOD at 10:43 AM
The WRAL video does an excellent job of outlining the seriousness of the shoaling problems at Oregon Inlet. And, no doubt, it's time for a re-newed effort to get a north side jetty built, because the future of Wanchese and the area's entire commercial and charter boat fishing industry is hanging by a thread.
Unlike beach nourishment, a second jetty at Oregon Inlet can do much to solve this terrible economic problem. And, unlike nourishment or continued dredging, the cost of constructing the additional jetty would be cost effective for everyone concerned.
So, how can this objective be accomplished? What can the fishermen, the citizens and the leadership on the Outer Banks do that they haven't done before? First, remember two things, "timing" is everything and trust the old saying that "all politics is local". EOD thinks we should start over and begin here.
GET THE FUNDING IN PLACE: (Estimated cost - $50 million)
County Commissioners and Towns: Currently, the county and its six town receive 3% in annual occupancy taxes (almost $15 million per yr.) and use it as they see fit. In addition, they receive another 2% occupancy tax (almost $10 million per yr.) that is dedicated to the tourist bureau (1%) and beach nourishment (1%). More importantly, the commissioners currently have legislative approval to assess a final 1% occupancy tax (another $5 million per year) for beach nourishment.
The county's beach nourishment fund balance currently sits at about $31 million, with $18 million of it pledged to Nags Head this year and another $2 million pledged next year to help pay their nourishment bond. Still, the county expects to have no less than $15 million in unspent money in that account by the middle of next year and it will grow by another $5 million per year. With the imposition of the additional 1% occupancy tax, as authorized by the state, the county will be receiving no less than $8-10 million per year in uncommitted occupancy taxes very soon.
Albeit the statute says the $8-$10 million is dedicated for beach nourishment, it will be much easier to convince the state legislature that Oregon Inlet is an important part of our tourism economy and deserving of a large portion of that money than it will be to convince the leadership in Washington to finance a jetty in Dare County. Why?
Because, it is becoming obvious to most observers that the Nags Head project will probably not prove to be cost effective or successful enough to justify more expenditures in the near future .And, despite all the smoke blown by the former mayor of Kill Devil Hills, don't expect that town to get a nourishment project underway any time soon. There is plenty of justification for the towns and the county to fork some of that money over and help the commercial fishing and recreational fishing industry in Dare County?
2012 is an election year and pressure should be brought to bear on anyone hoping to hold elected office in Dare County. Remember, "all politics is local" and "timing is everything". Isn't it time for everyone who is supportive of correcting this problem to nudge our county commissioners to "put out" or "get out".
WORK WITH, NOT AGAINST : (the environmentalists)
There isn't enough money in Dare County to fight and defeat any nationally supported environmental movement, whether we like it or not. There will always have to be compromise. For example, a backwoods lawyer could have told our county commissioners they stood no chance whatsoever when they wasted over $500,000 in county funds, just for a seat at the table, as the Southern Environmental Law Center walked over the national park service. And, it didn't matter that Judge Terrence Boyle was presiding, the SELC would have won the case anyway. So, why did the county chose to alienate them, and why do we continue to throw slings and arrows? Is it helping anything?
The first thing our leadership needs to do is recognize that we have to "bargain" in order to get anywhere in Dare County these days. The fact is, there are a lot of staunch environmentalists living right here on the Outer Banks, whether our commissioners, the people on Hatteras Island or anyone else wants to believe and accept it or not.
Several years ago the County of Dare came into ownership of about 12 acres of prime inlet fronted property on the south side of Oregon Inlet (old coast guard station). The national park service wanted it badly and the environmentalists would have loved to have seen the fish and wildlife service get their hands on it. Without thinking, and by playing politics, Dare County donated the land to the State of North Carolina for, yet another research facility. We didn't then and don't now, need another research facility here on the Outer Banks. The county threw away a prime bargaining chip and it needs to re-approach the State about how it can be used today for some kind of compromise.
On the north side of the inlet, a similar size portion of inlet fronted property was the object of a quit claim deed filed by several members and leaders of the local fishing community about five years ago. While the park service has always claimed rights and/or ownership, it has always been a quietly disputed issue. Dare County should go after that property or at least seek some kind of compromise that will assist them in getting permits for a jetty over there. Last winter's ocean breach of the trout pond next to this piece of property promises to make it an inlet island and the park service should be happy to keep that spit open and let the island form and become a protected bird sanctuary. Also, the new break, if permanent, will help take pressure off the flow in the main portion of Oregon Inlet.
CONVINCE THE REPUBLICANS:
It's also time the, once long-established, political leadership in Dare County stopped whining about their loss of influence in Raleigh and began respecting the fact that the hat's off their heads and in their hands for what may be a long while. Meanwhile, the local Republican Party needs to convince the legislature leadership in Raleigh that the best way to stay in power in this region of the state is to show they can do more for the people and the economic future of the Outer Banks than their predecessors.
The community of Wanchese and much of Hatteras Island has strong Republican influences when it comes to the voting booth and they are the ones with the most to gain by getting Oregon Inlet jettied. The task ahead of them and all of Dare County is not impossible and the timing is right. Now.
Footnote: EyeonDare has often wondered why Dare County leaders have never sought help from long-time U S Congressman Howard Coble (R) of Greensboro, NC. Coble has served in Washington, DC for over 25 years, and is a former member of the U S Coast Guard and retired Commander of a U S Coast Guard Reserve Unit in Wilmington, N C. In addtion, Coble is an influential member of the congressional Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation. Most of all, Representative Coble has a strong love for coastal North Carolina and respect for its inhabitants. EOD had the pleasure of working under Congressman Coble many years ago when he was the Secretary of Revenue for the State of North Carolina. He is a most honorable man who would not shut the door in anyone's face. EOD urges the local Republican Party, in unity with our local fishermen, to give Coble a call and see what happens.