December 2014 at 3:52 pm
As a rule, Hatteras and Ocracoke islands don't get much snow in the winter. And when it does snow for a short time, the wind is usually blowing so hard that the flakes fly by quickly -- sometimes so quickly they are barely visible.
However, the island has seen four significant snow storms in the past 25 years, beginning with the Christmas Blizzard of 1989.
Twenty-five years ago on Dec. 23, it started snowing. It kept on snowing the next day, Christmas Eve. And by Christmas Day, Hatteras and Ocracoke were covered in a record 13.3 inches of snow.
It really was a white Christmas -- and one that few who were around then will soon forget.
The wind blew really hard from the northeast and then the northwest, and the snow, as is usual on the islands, was blown into drifts. Some places were almost bare, while nearby, there were drifts many feet high.
This storm also ushered in very cold temperatures, and the Pamlico Sound was frozen all along the shoreline, in the creeks and canals, and, in some places, out as far as the eye could see. Read More
December 2014 at 1:50 pm
Some advocates for more reasonable public access at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore are outright trashing the legislation passed last week by Congress that would make changes in the seashore's off-road vehicle plan. Read More
Others are scratching their heads, not sure what the legislation really means.
But I am here to tell you that these changes to the plan are significant -- perhaps very significant.
Yes, it is true that the legislation is not what we had been hoping for -- nor is it what was first proposed by the North Carolina Congressional delegation in bills they have introduced in two Congresses over the past four years.
The original bills would have overturned the ORV rule, finalized in 2012, and returned the management of the seashore to the publicly vetted Interim Protected Species Management Plan, first proposed in 2006, a year before environmental groups sued the Park Service over the shortcomings of that plan and the lack of an ORV plan.
The bills to overturn the final ORV plan passed the Republican-controlled House twice before this month's legislation also passed as part of the defense bill.
In the Democrat-controlled Senate, the bill was defeated in the Committee for Natural Resources the first time, and then favorably reported out of that committee in June 2013 after a last-minute successful effort to write a substitute bill that garnered some Democratic support.
The compromise legislation is what the House and Senate passed earlier this month, after it became part of a public lands package of legislation that was added at the very last minute to the 201 National Defense Authorization Act.
December 2014 at 4:12 pm
Weary veterans of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore off-road vehicle wars are needed to share their experiences with supporters of access at Cape Lookout National Seashore, who are fighting their own battle with the Park Service over the proposed ORV plan there. Read More
The North Carolina General Assembly has chosen to get more involved with the rulemaking at Cape Lookout than it was at Cape Hatteras, and the House of Representatives' newly formed Select Committee on the use of Off-Road Vehicles on Cape Lookout National Seashore will have a public hearing on Tuesday, Dec. 16, from 1 until 4 p.m. in the auditorium of the Roanoke Island Campus of the College of the Albemarle in Manteo.
The three-member committee was appointed in October by then Speaker of the House Thom Tillis to examine the effect of Cape Lookout's proposed ORV rule on tourism and the economy. The chairwoman is Pat McElraft, an Emerald Island Republican, in whose district the Cape Lookout seashore is located. The other members are Reps. Chris Millis, R-Hampstead, and George Graham, D-Kinston.
McElraft said in an interview this week that she had not been following the Cape Lookout rulemaking process that carefully until Tillis asked her to take on the committee. Tillis, she said, learned about the rulemaking that is underway when several constituents came to Raleigh to talk to him about their fears about curtailed public access and impacts on the local economy if the proposed regulations become final.
She gladly took on the task and has gone to school in the Park Service's rulemaking process.
There are many similarities between Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras seashores.
Like Cape Hatteras, Cape Lookout did not have a formal ORV plan, as has been required by executive orders since the mid-1970s. And, also like Cape Hatteras, lawsuits by environmental groups forced the Park Service into formulating an off-road vehicle management plan there.
The two seashores share a barrier island terrain, with many miles of gorgeous beaches. They both have the dual mission of providing for public access and recreation while protecting nesting shorebirds and sea turtles. And they are both popular with visitors, especially fishermen and beachcombers, though visitation at Cape Lookout is much less than at Hatteras.
But they also have some significant differences. The slightly smaller Cape Lookout -- with 56 miles of beaches -- is much more remote.