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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!

Enjoy the Island Free Press and, even more importantly, enjoy our wonderful barrier island!!!

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Buxton restoration timeline: Too ambitious or not ambitious enough?

Thursday 28 August 2014 at 4:48 pm

Property owners in north Buxton have been very vocal since Hurricane Irene two years ago about the desperate need for beach nourishment in the area.

You could hear the pain and frustration in their voices as they asked questions at a public meeting last week to discuss the beach restoration project that is about to get started.

They watch the nourishment about half finished at the S-curves and north Rodanthe and they wonder why those dredges can't just head south and pump some sand onto the Buxton beach while they are at it.

The Buxton folks want nourishment and they want it now, not in 2016, which is the most optimistic estimate for completion by the consulting firm the county has hired to oversee the project.

The northern Hatteras nourishment, a project of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the North Carolina Department of Transportation, is being done to protect Highway 12 in an area that has been very frequently overwashed and closed in storms in recent years.  The road there was breached during Hurricane Irene in 2011 and almost washed away after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency for the S-curves area in March of 2013 after yet another storm pounded the area

Carol Dawson, who with her husband Dave owns the Cape Hatteras Motel, the northernmost building in Buxton, posted a comment on the Island Free Press article about the Tuesday public meeting.

"Two more years!" she wrote. "There won't be anything left in Buxton. It has needed beach nourishment for decades not a few years! If the commissioners had pressed our governor to add Buxton to the emergency declaration along with Rodanthe we would be receiving the long needed sand right now!"

Carol Dillon, who owns the Outer Banks Motel, had a stern warning for officials at last week's meeting.

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Under discussion on Monday: Ferry channel in Hatteras Inlet

Friday 22 August 2014 at 7:02 pm

Representatives of the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the North Carolina Department of Transportation will announce Monday that the "alternate" route has become the "official" route for the Hatteras-Ocracoke Ferry.

The Coast Guard made the announcement this morning in a release to the media that billed the event as a "media availability."

The event will be on Monday, Aug. 25, at 1 p.m. at  the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras village.
Rumors about the event have been circulating among folks on Hatteras and Ocracoke for a week or so but reached a fever pitch in the past few days, and especially this morning, as people scrambled to find out what they could about the meeting.

They were getting fairly desperate for information, any information, on whether there was really a meeting, where and when it will be, what the subject of discussion will be.

Now, you may be wondering why there is all of this excitement and angst about the establishment of a ferry channel.

The answer to that question is that how ferries and other boats -- the Hatteras charter and commercial fleets and private vessels-- travel across and through Hatteras Inlet is a huge economic issue.

Historically, the boats have used a route, designated as Rollinson Channel, from Hatteras village to the end of the Hatteras spit.  There, boats could take a turn and go through Hatteras Inlet out into the ocean or continue on to the north Ocracoke ferry docks in a state-maintained channel.

That route meant a quick 40-minute run for the ferries and a quick shot to the inlet for watermen heading out to the ocean for commercial or recreational fishing, both of which are big industries on the islands.

In recent years, Rollinson Channel has become increasingly difficult to keep open because of shifting sands and shoaling along the route.  The shoaling increased after Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

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We are not alone, Part II

Friday 15 August 2014 at 3:37 pm

Island Free Press reader Mike Metzgar, a member of the board of directors of the North Carolina Beach Buggy Association, still quite often sends us links to articles in the media about controversies at other parks.

I read them all and find them interesting and informative -- and especially informative in what they tell us about the National Park Service and its relationships with the communities in which parks are located.

What the articles tell us is that we are not alone in our recent disagreements with the Park Service over such issues as regulations, science, and transparency.

A couple years ago, I rounded up a bunch of stories that Mike had e-mailed over the past months in a blog entitled, "We are not alone."

Mike has sent us many stories since that blog but some of those we've received from him this summer have especially caught my attention.

So, here's "We are not alone, Part II." If you want more information, there are links to media coverage at the end of the blog.

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Don't believe everything you read

Friday 08 August 2014 at 4:57 pm

Don't believe everything you read, so they say.

And in this case, it's true.

If you have read that the U.S. Court Appeals for the Fourth Circuit "overturned" the lawsuit brought by environmental groups against state and federal agencies over their plan to replace the aging Herbert C. Bonner Bridge, don't believe it.

Yesterday, folks on the Outer Banks were scrambling to make sense of the news reports on Wednesday's decision.

They were trying to figure out what the opinion really means for going forward with the project so fervently that you would have thought their lives depended on it.

And one of these days, they might.

Anyway, news reports in almost every media I checked Wednesday and yesterday referred to the decision being "overturned" -- in either the headline or at the very beginning of the article.

The first thing you should understand about the Appeals Court decision is that it did not overturn a lower court decision in a lawsuit filed by environmental groups over the decision by N.C. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway administration to replace the bridge.

You have to read only to Page 4 of the 57-page decision to figure that out.

On Page 4, the appeals judges say that they "affirm the district court's determination that Defendants complied with NEPA, reverse the district court's determination that a special exemption frees Defendants from complying with Section 4(f), and remand for further proceedings."

In this case, the Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of its clients, Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Refuge Association, sued DOT and FHWA in 2011, challenging their replacement decision.

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What you should know about the Dare County Control Group

Friday 01 August 2014 at 3:45 pm

True or false:  The Dare County Control Group decides when to evacuate Hatteras Island as a hurricane approaches and when to allow re-entry when it is past.

This is false.

The county says that the Control Group does not make the decisions about evacuation and re-entry but instead functions in an information-gathering and coordination role.

True or false:  The Dare County Control Group is a public body.

This may be true or it may be false.  

The only thing that is perfectly clear in the law is that it is not clear whether a local emergency management control group is a public body.

The Dare County Control Group is activated during emergencies, such as hurricanes, and consists of the chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners or his designee, the county sheriff, the superintendent of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and the mayors of the six municipalities in the county -- Duck, Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, Manteo, Nags Head, and Southern Shores.  All but the seashore superintendent are elected officials.

Here in Dare County, there has been renewed interest in the Control Group and how it operates since Hurricane Arthur passed perilously close to the Outer Banks in the early morning hours of July 4.

Some folks are still unhappy with the county's decision to allow visitors back onto Hatteras Island, which had been under a mandatory evacuation order, at 4 p.m. on July 5, just a day after the storm.

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