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Hi, and welcome to my "Editor's Blog"! In this space I'll be attempting to keep our readers informed on fast-breaking news and issues affecting our islands. Visit often. There's a lot going on!

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What the SELC won't show you ¦ WITH SLIDE SHOW

Monday 29 June 2009 at 10:48 am The Southern Environmental Law Center, which represented Defenders of Wildlife and the National Audubon Society in their lawsuit again the National Park Service over ORV use on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, has sent out press releases and information about the dire state of shorebirds on seashore beaches.

One of the claims is that the black skimmer population on the seashore in 2007 was zero.

That could be true, and there’s no argument from me that shorebirds on all of the North Carolina coast – and probably all of the southeast coast – are losing habitat to development.

But are they losing habitat to ORVs?

So far, there has been no scientific proof of that.

Let’s look more closely at black skimmers. Read More

If you didn't like my blog on access, you really won't like this take on it

Tuesday 23 June 2009 at 2:03 pm If you did not like what I wrote in my blog titled “Don’t beat up on the county commissioners,” you really won’t like today’s editorial in The Virginian-Pilot.

That editorial is entitled “Washington leaps into Hatteras fight.”  

Never mind, that it’s not even news since Washington has been involved in the “fight” since last year. Just read it.

I wrote that advocates of beach access should not waste time beating up on the county, bashing the federal judge who signed off on the consent decree that ended a lawsuit by environmental groups against the National Park Service, or trying to get legislation passed in Washington to overturn the consent decree.

I said that those who favor continued access to America’s first national seashore should instead focus their efforts on a draft Environmental Impact Statement and preferred alternative on access to the park.  Park officials have said that the DEIS should be ready this fall and that there will be public meetings and a 60-day public comment period.

Some of you didn’t like that and suggested I was advocating that we all sit back and do nothing from now until the end of the year.

I advocated nothing of the sort. Read More

Blogging about the blog

Sunday 21 June 2009 at 1:14 pm I have always believed that a newspaper should be a marketplace of ideas -- a forum for the community to express its views and opinions.
 
That has certainly happened on my last blog, titled “Don’t beat up the county about beach access – there are better ways to spend our time.”
 
And that is good.
 
To set the record straight, I certainly am not putting down the current effort to get folks involved in the process of ORV rulemaking.
 
However, I believe that the organizing and fundraising effort should start now to gear up for the public comment on the draft Environmental Impact Statement and preferred alternative for the rule. And eventually to address the final rule in the courts, if that is necessary.
 
Others who have posted on the blog disagree.
 
And that is their right, of course. Read More

Don't beat up the county about beach access - there are better ways to spend our time

Thursday 18 June 2009 at 08:47 am A standing room only crowd of about 125 people showed up at the meeting of the Dare County Board of Commissioners on Monday evening, June 15.

They came to speak at the meeting’s public comment period about the beach access issues on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Twenty-five folks stepped up to the microphone to comment.

The comment period went on for more than an hour, and the commissioners listened to each speaker patiently and with respect.

It is terrific that all of these people are making such an effort to be informed and to speak out on the beach access issue -- and especially last year’s consent decree that settled a lawsuit by environmental groups about the lack of an off-road vehicle plan on the seashore. Read More

Rainbows over Hatteras ¦ WITH A SLIDE SHOW

Monday 15 June 2009 at 1:26 pm By late afternoon on Friday, June 12, it looked as if Hatteras Island would get a really big thunderstorm.

The National Weather Service had posted a severe thunderstorm watch, and radar showed big blobs of red – storms across the sound.  The thunder echoed as the sky grew darker, and the system moved west toward Hatteras.

Then the storms came and went – with little of the stormy part.  Only a little over a tenth of an inch of rain was measured in Frisco.  There were only a few impressive claps of thunder.  And, according to the National Weather Service, the wind never gusted higher than 26 mph from the west.

But something even more impressive happened as the dark and foreboding gust front passed over the island.

The sky turned from black to almost navy blue, and then light became greenish, pink, and other colors, casting a strange glow over the landscape.

Next two rainbows appeared – one very bright and one just a little more subdued.

Lynne Foster said that on her street in Hatteras village, the residents poured out of their homes with digital cameras to capture the sight.

“It was a really neat community event,” Foster said. Read More

Replacing the Bonner Bridge may be moving forward again -- just maybe

Friday 12 June 2009 at 08:56 am Dare County’s Citizens’ Action Committee to Replace the Bonner Bridge met for the first time in almost a year on Wednesday, June 10.

And, for the first time in quite some months, the committee and county officials were energized and hopeful that the effort to build a replacement for the aging Herbert C. Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet might move forward.

The committee had a teleconference with Jim Trogdon, North Carolina Department of Transportation’s chief operating officer, and other members of the DOT staff.

“We have concurrence on the merger team, and we are moving ahead,” Trogdon said.
He also noted that DOT has “more confidence that we have the right consensus and are headed in the right direction.”

The merger team consists of several dozen representatives of local, state, and federal agencies that have a stake in the bridge replacement project and the problems with Highway 12 through the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.

“The merger team,” he told the group, “has agreed on a replacement for the Bonner Bridge and is still working on options for the highway south of Pea Island, and especially at the entrance to Rodanthe.”

The team, he said, agrees that the replacement will be a parallel bridge to the west of the current bridge. It will be 2.7 miles long and will cost about $300 million – money that the state already has in its budget. Read More

A conversation with the park superintendent

Monday 08 June 2009 at 5:24 pm Cape Hatteras National Seashore Superintendent Mike Murray is the most accessible park leader that I have covered in 18 years of reporting news on Hatteras and Ocracoke.

You may agree with the actions he takes or the direction in which he takes the seashore – or you may not.  Some think Murray is held hostage by the Department of Interior solicitors who have more to say than he does about the management of the seashore – especially after environmental groups filed a lawsuit over off-road vehicle access on the seashore in 2007.

But the fact remains that this man is accessible by phone and by e-mail, really seems to endorse transparency in park actions, and has remained calm and patient despite all the grief that has come his way since he took over as superintendent in December, 2005. Indeed, he has been squeezed by ORV access groups, environmental groups, lawyers, business people, residents, and who knows who else, and he always remains poised, answering questions – some quite ill-informed -- with respect  and as much detail as he can.

Granted that this is his job, but I think, he is good for the seashore.

Murray has been meeting with local reporters in “media roundtables” since the beginning of his administration in the park.  We meet about three or four times a year.  Sometimes he calls us to meet, and sometimes we call him to remind him it’s time to meet.

Sometimes, there’s a lot on his agenda and on ours.  Sometimes, not. Read More

More ramp closures put the big squeeze on Hatteras beaches

Tuesday 02 June 2009 at 10:20 am Fewer than 10 miles of beach on Hatteras Island are now open to off-road vehicles.

That’s fewer than 10 miles on the island’s more than 50 miles of shoreline.

And much of the beach that is closed to ORVs is also closed to pedestrians.

These are resource closures – areas that are closed to protect nesting shorebirds and colonial waterbirds.

The northern end of Hatteras – about 13 or so miles – is part of the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and is off limits to ORVs all year.

The beaches in front of the villages are closed to ORVs as part of the usual summer safety closures to protect pedestrians.

Ramp 23 south of Salvo was closed yesterday for breeding least terns. Read More