Shooting The Breeze


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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Focusing on the good news at the seashore

Friday 29 April 2016 at 4:37 pm

The end of April is here, and Cape Point is still open for off-road vehicle access, which is something new and different.

At least since the National Park Service's ORV plan for the Cape Hatteras National Seashore became final in 2012, the Point has been closed down to ORV access in early April -- and has stayed closed into August or even September.

Now under buffer rules that were modified by the Park Service last summer, seashore officials are allowed to provide an ORV corridor through American oystercatcher nesting activity very near the Point.

And under the new rules, the corridor can stay in place until a nest, if it is established, hatches -- which could take up to another  month.

Michelle Havens, the seashore's chief of natural resources, said today that two pairs of oystercatchers are now attempting to nest near the corridor.  Neither has established a nest, she said, but one may be close.

If the birds nest in the areas they've been checking out, the corridor will remain in place until there are chicks on the ground -- another four or five weeks, which would take us almost to Memorial Day.

There is also an ORV corridor for nesting oystercatchers at South Point on Ocracoke, which is a popular fishing and recreation site on that island.  The South Point birds, Havens said, have established a nest and the corridor did not have to be adjusted.  It will remain in place until there are chicks on the ground.

This is a good thing for advocates of more reasonable public access for ORVs and pedestrians to the seashore's beaches.

The buffer modifications are a direct result to legislation passed by Congress in late 2014. However, implementing the changes asked for by lawmakers was a monumental task with a deadline.

And the seashore's new superintendent, David Hallac, who had arrived for his new job about the time the legislation was passed, and his staff have done an admirable job of meeting those deadlines.  They are still working on some parts of the legislation that will change the final rule, but so far, so good.

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Now you can speak up at board meetings without leaving Hatteras

Friday 22 April 2016 at 10:50 am

The Dare County Board of Commissioners has made good on its promise to make it easier and more convenient for Hatteras islanders to speak to them about the issues on their minds.

Beginning Monday, May 2, islanders will be able to go to the Fessenden Center in Buxton and speak directly to the commissioners at their meetings during the public comment period or during public hearings that are often scheduled during the meetings.

The hookup between Buxton and Manteo via Skype has been set up by Dare County's Information Technology Department, with the effort led by Matt Hester.

The equipment -- which cost $5,900 and came from the county's contingency fund -- will be located in the Fessenden Center Activities Room and the meetings will be hosted on the Hatteras Island end by the center's staff members, who will set it up, welcome the public, and sign up anyone who wants to comment.

"I really didn't know what to expect," said Dorothy Hester, Dare County's public information officer, "but the audio and video are both really quite good."

During tests last week, she said the picture was clear and the audio was strong.

When we speak to the commissioners from Buxton, we will see a screen of them seated at the dais in their meeting room in Manteo.  They will see the speaker at the microphone at the Fessenden Center.

The comments that we offer from Buxton will be part of the public record of the meeting and will be shown on the videotape of the meeting that can be seen on the Government Channel -- Charter Cable Channel 20 on Hatteras -- or on the Dare County website.

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Buxton beach nourishment in the news -- continued

Friday 08 April 2016 at 4:34 pm

There was plenty of news this week about the Buxton beach nourishment project -- none of it probably particularly welcomed by the folks in north Buxton.

Dare County confirmed this afternoon in a news release that the project will not happen until next year.

Yesterday, the county opened bids from four companies who are interested in the project.  The companies were asked to submit two bids-- one for work to be completed by December 2016 and the other for work to be completed by 2017.

Only two companies bid on the work for this year -- and both bids were 50 percent more than the construction budget of 22.96 million. Weeks Marine came in at $34.1 million and Dutra Group at $33.9 million.

All four companies bid on the work for next year, and the county said today that Weeks Marine is the "lowest responsible" bidder at $22.15 million.  The other bids ranged from $29.8 million to $48.7 million.

This is a great disappointment for Hatteras islanders, especially for north Buxton property owners, whose homes and businesses are getting regularly pounded by the ocean during even minor northeasters.

It's also a disappointment to county officials and to all of the state and federal agencies that worked at warp speed to get the project permitted in time for a start date this summer.

When the county got serious about the project about two years ago, no one who had ever been involved  with permitting a project like Buxton nourishment believed that 2016 was even a possibility.

The most important permit was a special use permit from the National Park Service, which owns the Buxton beaches. Park Service policy generally does not favor nourishment on its beaches, but NPS Southeast Regional Director Stan Austin told the county in June 2014 that the agency would consider issuing a permit in the case of north Buxton, since the area had already been altered by human activities and structures and because the project was to protect Highway 12.

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Buxton beach nourishment in the news

Friday 01 April 2016 at 4:18 pm

Dare County's planned beach nourishment project in north Buxton moved along quickly, making news headlines during March, and you can expect even more news in April -- especially next week.

On Monday, April 4, at 10 a.m., the Dare County Board of Commissioners will have a public hearing in the commissioners' meeting room at the Dare County Administrative Building in Manteo, to determine whether the owners of 34 oceanfront parcels of land in the nourishment area should help pay for the project.

The report outlines the need for the service district and includes a statement that the district meets the standards set by law.

Dare County proposes to nourish 2.9 miles of beach from approximately the Canadian Hole to the old site of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse with 2.6 million cubic yards of sand from an offshore borrow pit. The reason for the nourishment project is to protect Highway 12 from destructive storm surges.

According to the report, the estimated total cost of the project is $25 million or $9.62 per cubic yard of sand.  The project, the report says, will be funded by a combination of the county's beach nourishment fund and from revenues generated from a county service district made up of all oceanfront properties in the project area.

The commissioners will hear from the public at the hearing and will then have several choices for further action, according to county manager Bobby Outten.

They can take no action, they can pass a resolution to adopt the service district as proposed, or they can make changes to what has been proposed.  For instance, the board members could propose adding more properties near, but not on the oceanfront, to the service district, as they have discussed previously.

Any changes to the proposal, Outten said, would require another report, map, and public hearing with four weeks notice.

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