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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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Buxton beach restoration timetable is still an issue

Friday 30 January 2015 at 4:34 pm

Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Dare County officials hosted a public meeting Wednesday in Buxton to talk about the environmental document that must be prepared before the Park Service can consider giving the county a special use permit to pump sand on badly eroding beaches to protect Highway 12 on the village's north end.

The 25 or 30 island residents and business owners who attended were almost outnumbered by Park Service and county officials who came to answer questions about the project and give out information on how to make public comments on the plan.

The meeting was one of two that were held this week on the project.  The first one on Tuesday night in Manteo was only lightly attended.

The Buxton audience listened politely to short presentations by Dr. Tim Kana of Coastal Science & Engineering, the contractor the county has hired to oversee the restoration, Dave Hallac, the new superintendent of the seashore, and the seashore's acting natural resources division chief Randy Swilling.  

The Park Service published its notice of intent to prepare a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the nourishment project last month.  Public comment on the preparation will be accepted until Feb. 27.

The project proposes to pump sand from an offshore borrow area onto three miles of beach in north Buxton. Since the Park Service owns the beaches, it must issue a special use permit before the project can start, but it is only one of many federal and state agencies that must issue permits or sign off on the nourishment.

All three of the presenters at the meeting stressed how the agencies are working closely together, meeting regularly, and doing everything possible to meet the goal of pumping sand in the summer of 2016.

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Fuming over Outer Banks gas prices

Friday 23 January 2015 at 4:50 pm

Folks have been watching the new Republican-controlled Dare County Board of Commissioners since the members were sworn in Dec. 1 to see what changes there might be after the power shift -- the first one in several decades.

And some observers find one of the board's first high-profile actions a curious one for the newly empowered Republicans.

At its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 20, the board voted unanimously to send a letter to North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, written by board chairman Bob Woodard, asking him to investigate "exorbitant" gas prices in the county.

This action comes close to opposing free enterprise and even asking for some government oversight, if not control, on pricing -- not usually very Republican sentiments.  

The commissioners were spurred on by an outcry about gas prices on a Facebook page that first appeared this month -- OBX GAS 2 HIGH.

The Facebook group is protesting the fact that gas prices on the Outer Banks are higher than the North Carolina average and higher than other areas in the region. The price difference, the groups says, is because of price "gouging" in a resort area.  Some members have made posts accusing the owners of gas pumps of price-fixing, collusion and some other pretty nasty and illegal moves.

The national average price for unleaded regular gasoline in the U.S. yesterday was $2.04 per gallon.  In North Carolina, it was $2.10.  North of the bridge, prices varied, but lower prices were in the vicinity of $2.25 to $2.27 a gallon.

On Hatteras Island, some sampled prices included $2.30 in Rodanthe, $2.48 in Buxton, and $2.49 in Hatteras village. On Ocracoke, regular gas was going for $2.89 a gallon.

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A conversation with the new seashore superintendent

Friday 16 January 2015 at 3:40 pm

Dave Hallac, the new superintendent of the National Park Service's Outer Banks Group, which includes the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, says he has been busy since he started his new job the first of the year.

On the day of this interview, Hallac said he had been making phone calls to seashore stakeholders and users to introduce himself and set up meetings to hear what's on their minds. And he and his wife, Robin, registered their children in school in Nags Head.

The Hallacs have four children -- a 10-year-old and two 7-year-old twins in elementary school and a preschooler who will be in kindergarten next year.

Hallac was named to his new position on Nov. 13 and made at least one visit to the Outer Banks in early December before relocating here with his family and getting down to serious work.

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The three R's of our new year: Recreation, restoration, replacement

Friday 09 January 2015 at 5:49 pm

As we look forward into 2015, we have three R's on our mind -- recreation, restoration, and replacement.

To be more specific, we want to see some movement on three issues that have plagued us for too long.

In the area of recreation, we hope that the legislation passed last month by the U.S. Congress that will require the National Park Service to consider some changes to its off-road vehicle plan to give more reasonable public access to the seashore's beaches -- for drivers and for pedestrians.

In restoration, we look to state and federal agencies to streamline the permitting needed for Dare County to proceed with its planned 2016 restoration of the badly eroding beach in north Buxton.

And in replacement, we want to see an end to the impasse between the state Department of Transportation and environmental groups on the replacement of the aging Herbert C. Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet.

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