June 2014 at 6:39 pm
It's been an interesting week since U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle ruled that natural resources trump beach driving -- and apparently recreation -- here at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
The judge issued his order on June 20 in a lawsuit filed by the Cape Hatteras Access Preservation Alliance (CHAPA) against the Department of Interior and the National Park Service to overturn the park's 2012 off-road vehicle plan and final rule for the seashore. Two environmental groups, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, were defendant-intervenors in the litigation.
Boyle ruled in favor of the federal defendants and the defendant-intervenors on every objection that CHAPA raised in the lawsuit about the plan -- from whether it met the requirements of the seashore's Enabling Legislation and the National Environmental Policy Act to the science upon which it is based to whether the economic impact studies were adequate.
It's clear that the plan and final rule are here to stay -- unless there is a successful appeal of Boyle's ruling or Congress finally passes legislation to order the seashore to revisit parts of the plan.
CHAPA has not decided whether to appeal. And a bill to overturn the plan has stalled in Congress. It has passed in the House of Representatives -- twice. But an amended version of the bill, favorably reported out of committee earlier this year, has never reached the Senate floor. Read More
June 2014 at 5:19 pm
Christie Roberson of Buxton spoke to the Dare County Board of Commissioners during the public comment period at the meeting earlier this week. Read More
"It is no longer okay," she said, "that we are not in active pursuit of getting sand on the beach in Buxton."
She noted that businesses and homeowners in north Buxton have spent "millions of dollars stabilizing our home fronts."
"Time is of the essence," she told the board members.
There is no question that the north Buxton beaches are severely eroding and that the ocean is threatening both private property and Highway 12.
As Roberson noted, on high tides there is barely any beach in front of some of the motels and homes and visitors are sitting on top of sandbags. Sand has been pushed up into a makeshift dune time and time again after storms.
However, it is not true that the Dare County is "not in active pursuit" of beach nourishment in Buxton.
Nourishment on Hatteras Island, especially at north Rodanthe and north Buxton, has been on the commissioners' radar for several years now.
In the spring of 2013, the county approved a contract with Coastal Science and Engineering of Columbia, S.C., to do a feasibility study on nourishment at the two sites.
The study estimated the cost of nourishment in Buxton at $19.85 to $26.7 million.
June 2014 at 5:02 pm
This is the third nesting season that off-road vehicle access to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore beaches has been controlled by the Park Service's new ORV plan and final rule, which became effective in February 2012. Read More
The shorebird nesting season is about at the halfway point, and so far there have been no big surprises.
The sea turtle nesting season is still young, but so far numbers are below the past two very successful nesting seasons.
On the shorebird side, nesting numbers for piping plovers and American oystercatchers are coming in about the same as last year.
The weekly resource management reports no longer tell us how many breeding pairs of piping plovers are on seashore beaches, which is too bad. That's an important number that seems to show up only in the annual reports issued early in the year following the nesting season. The most recent report -- for 2013 -- was issued in mid-February of this year.
We do know that there have been 11 piping plover nests to date on the seashore. The most, as usual, have been in the Cape Point area, where there have been six nests.
Also of note is the fact that there has been a nest established on the South Beach in Frisco, after the plovers were unsuccessful in that area last year. And there are two nests on North Ocracoke after there were none last year.
June 2014 at 3:47 pm
Some of us will be sweating this summer -- and not just because of the weather. Read More
There are decisions or actions due on any number of issues that will have profound effects on the future of not just Hatteras but also Ocracoke.
There are two court opinions we're waiting for, a decision on the long-term solution for bridging the S-curves and north Rodanthe, and maybe finally some word on the "emergency" beach nourishment in that area.
Here a quick look at all of these issues.
CHAPA LAWSUIT AGAINST DOI AND NPS
The Cape Hatteras Preservation Alliance sued the Department of Interior and the National Park Service in February of 2012 to stop the Park Service's off-road vehicle plan and final rule for the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Defenders of Wildlife and the National Parks Conservation Association, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, were allowed as defendant-intervenors on the side of the federal government.
The lawsuit was filed in federal district court in Washington, D.C., but was handed back to District Court Judge Terrence Boyle in the Eastern District of North Carolina, who handled the original lawsuit, filed in 2007, against the Park Service for its lack of an ORV plan. That lawsuit was settled by a consent decree in 2008.
Boyle has earned himself a reputation as no friend of those who advocate for more reasonable ORV access and a good friend of SELC.