April 2009

Aquarium Pier at Emerald Isle Update

Fishing piers all along the North Carolina coast have been disappearing over the last 5-10 years. About three years ago, the Town of Emerald Isle made it a priority to take steps to ensure that a pier would remain in Emerald Isle. The first approach was to work out a deal at the Bogue Inlet Pier site, either with the prospective buyer or the pier owner. Neither of those deals came to fruition and Mike Stanley the owner of Bogue Inlet Pier decided to continue operating the pier as he had in the past and he expects to do so for many years to come.

The Town then turned towards forming a partnership with the North Carolina Aquariums to build an ocean fishing pier at the site of the old Emerald Isle Pier site which is now known as the Eastern Ocean Regional Access. The general plan is to have not only an ocean fishing pier, but to have Aquarium educational exhibits, a place for university scientific research and a sound side pier.

The total cost of the project is expected to be in the $15-20 million range. In the spring of 2008, the Aquarium was awarded a $2.2 million grant from the Water Access and Marine Industry Fund. That was a great start. The next step was for the Town and the Aquarium to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding which in very brief terms says the Town will donate the property to the Aquarium, the Aquarium will build a pier and pier house facility, and if the pier is not built, the property will revert to the town. By the time you read this, I anticipate the process of transferring the property to the State will be complete. The process was much longer than anticipated, but has not held up the project.

Another important step was to select an Advisory Committee. That Committee was selected in January 2009 from 31 applicants and they are as follows: Dr. Bogus (Chairman); Jim Woolard, Mal Boyette, Don Eglinton, Greg Rudolph, Randy Mason, Alex MacFadyen, and Dr. Rick Luettich. You can get information on these individuals as well as other information at www.ncaquariums.com/aquarium-piers.

And lastly, the architect for the project is being selected by the State Construction Office and is expected to be complete by mid-April 2009.

We are well under way, but still have a long way to go. The Aquarium, Town of Emerald Isle, and Advisory Board welcome all comments and suggestions. There will be public meetings throughout the project to keep the public informed. The Aquarium will operate the pier property at the same high standards that it operates the aquarium sites. I cannot think of a better partner to have on this project. The Eastern Ocean Regional Access will continue to operate as it has in the past until construction starts which is at least several years away.

Please feel free to direct any comments to Jay Barnes Director of Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium  jay.barnes@ncmail.net , Frank Rush Emerald Isle Town Manager frush@emeraldisle-nc.org , or myself at aschools@ec.rr.com.

Posted by Admin Wednesday, April 1, 2009 2:27:00 PM