April 2015 at 3:19 pm
A year ago, most advocates for more reasonable public access to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore beaches were more or less resigned to the fact that there would not be changes to the 2012 Off-Road Vehicle Plan until a five-year review in 2017.
Efforts over more than five years to change the plan legislatively had gone nowhere in the U.S. Congress.
A lawsuit by the Cape Hatteras Access Preservation Alliance (CHAPA) to stop the plan failed last June when federal Judge Terrence Boyle -- to no one's surprise -- ruled in favor of the National Park Service, writing in his opinion that the federal government had followed all laws and met all regulatory requirements when formulating the final ORV regulation.
Then came a surprising turn of events. Right after Thanksgiving, in a rush to finish its work before Christmas, the lame duck Congress attached a package of public lands and energy bills to the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act -- a "must pass" piece of legislation.
Included in the package was legislation that instructs the Secretary of the Interior to make some changes to the ORV plan and to report back to Congress on those changes. Chief among the instructions given the Secretary was to review and analyze wildlife protection buffers, make sure they are of the shortest duration, and cover the smallest area necessary, and to designate pedestrian and ORV corridors around the buffers. Read More
April 2015 at 5:58 pm
There have been many headlines in the media in recent months about the dire condition of Oregon Inlet, which just two weeks ago was closed by the Coast Guard to almost all boats because of severe shoaling in the channel. Read More
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers got emergency dredging underway last week, and conditions are improving in the inlet, but the channel is still in trouble and county and state leaders are looking at long-term solutions to keeping the economically important inlet open.
Just to the south, Hatteras Inlet also has its problems with shoaling, but right now the inlet is open and navigable.
That's good news for boat captains, commercial fishermen, private boaters, and the Hatteras Inlet ferry as the tourist season gets underway and the offshore fishing tournaments begin.
The first tournament -- the Hatteras Village Offshore Open, the first event in the Governor's cup series -- gets underway on May 12 with fishing May 13-16.
In recent years, some boat captains have been reluctant to come to Hatteras for the tournament because of the sorry shape of the heavily shoaled inlet. That should not be the case this year.
"Last year we couldn't tell them there was a good way to go," said Hatteras charter boat Captain Rom Whitaker of the Release. But that has changed.
"The inlet is not a problem," he said. "You're going to have to go farther but it (the channel) is deep and it's well marked."
Captain Ernie Foster of the Albatross charter fleet called the situation "functional but not ideal."
April 2015 at 4:52 pm
It's not been easy in the past month or so keeping up with what's happening in Raleigh and Manteo and how various proposed bills, motions, and resolutions might affect what you pay in taxes.
For instance, consider the issue of sales tax. We've had a lot of headlines in The Island Free Press lately with the words "sales tax" in them. And they refer to two separate and unrelated issues.
First, there is the issue of Dare County's sales tax, which will probably increase by 1/4 cent before the end of the year.
Then, there is the issue of a bill introduced in the General Assembly by Onslow County Republican Harry Brown that would totally change the way that sales tax monies are distributed to the counties. If that happens, Dare County would have to increase property taxes by 9 cents or more just to stay even. Read More