Federal regulation could impact coastal beaches

EMERALD ISLE, N.C. (WNCT) – A proposed federal regulation would increase the amount of land protected in the coastal barrier resources system. Some coastal areas aren’t happy with the measure.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed an expansion of the coastal barrier resources system in Carteret and Onslow Counties.

Emerald Isle says the expansion could negatively impact inlet management and beach nourishment programs there.

“Our concern is to continue to have the opportunity to dredge that channel to keep it away from Emerald Isle and keep it a public recreational area down there and also periodically use the sand for beach nourishment,” said Frank Rush, town manager.

One of the major areas impacted is at The Point, popular with both fisherman and beachcombers alike during the warmer months.

Other areas impacted include the Bogue Inlet complex. “The irony of it is that the projects that we do in Bogue Inlet are really intended to keep our island safer,” Rush said. The town already dredges the channel to keep it away from Emerald Isle and conducts beach nourishment for storm protection.

The expanded COBRA zone would remove federal financing available with development, removing the incentive for development on coastal barriers.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says protecting the coastal barriers is important to the environment saying, “The Service recognizes that aquatic habitat located between the coastal barrier and the mainland is an inseparable part of the coastal barrier ecosystem and serves a valuable function in protecting mainland communities such as the ability of wetlands to absorb storm surge.”

Emerald Isle says the proposed inclusion would also make it more difficult to secure federal and state permits for the management and nourishment projects.

The town is working with local lawmakers to keep the proposal from taking effect.

Other impacted areas include Onslow County and Hammocks Beach State Park. Many of the barrier islands which make up the park will be included in the expanded system.

The issue will go before Congress later this year.

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