March 14, 2017

MEMO TO:           Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

FROM:                  Frank A. Rush, Jr., Town Manager

SUBJECT:           Resolution Opposing Expansion of Coastal Barrier Resources System in Bogue Inlet (Summary & Suggested Motions)

The Board of Commissioners is asked to approve the attached resolution formally expressing the Town’s opposition to the proposed creation of a new “system unit” (NC -06) in the Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS) in Bogue Inlet.  For reasons noted below, the attached resolution requests that new “system unit” NC-06 be removed entirely from the proposed expansion of the CBRS system that the US Congress will consider (as part of a larger report)  OR  that the proposed boundaries be adjusted to not incorporate the Bogue Inlet complex.

The goals of the Coastal Barrier Resources System are to minimize loss of human life by discouraging development in high risk areas, reduce wasteful expenditure of Federal resources, and protect the natural resources in these areas.  The CBRS is often referred to as “cobra zones”, and you are likely familiar with this system that has impacted North Topsail Beach for many years.  Inclusion in the CBRS as a “system unit” (as proposed for the Bogue Inlet area) prohibits the issuance of Federal flood insurance policies, prohibits Federal expenditures (with some exceptions), and could potentially impact Federal and/or State permit decisions within these areas.  To be direct, a developed community like Emerald Isle simply DOES NOT want to be included in a CBRS “system unit”.

The new “system unit” was initially proposed in 2009, and originally encompassed a larger area adjacent to Emerald Isle that included the Bogue Inlet complex and Bogue Sound east to the NC 58 bridge.  The Town expressed concerns about this new “system unit” at that time (letter attached), and the areas in Bogue Sound east to the NC 58 bridge have now been removed from the final report that will be presented to the US Congress for approval.  The Town appreciates the removal of the Bogue Sound area from the proposed new “system unit”, however, significant concerns remain in the Bogue Inlet complex.  As you know, the Town has fostered or completed several beneficial dredging and beach nourishment activities in this area in the past,.  The Town’s long-term plans involve the continuation of these activities in order to promote a stable shoreline at The Point and along the oceanfront, promote public access and recreation at The Point, and promote safe and efficient navigation in Bogue Inlet – all of which are critical to the Town’s future economic success and quality of life.  The designation of the new “system unit” has the potential to make it more difficult, more expensive, and potentially prohibit some of these vital activities in the future; thus the formal expression of the Town’s opposition in the attached resolution.

I have carefully reviewed the relevant sections of the Federal report and discussed these concerns with officials at the US Fish and Wildlife Service (the responsible agency).  The USFWS has indicated (see attached email) that the new “system unit” should not prevent these activities in the future (assuming they are State or locally-sponsored, as anticipated), however, I remain concerned that there is potential for more difficulty, time, and expense in securing approval for these activities.  Additionally, although Federal funding is uncertain (at best) for these activities, the Town has historically received FEMA assistance for similar activities and the new “system unit” could potentially preclude FEMA assistance for work that occurs in the Bogue Inlet complex.  Additionally, the Trump Administration has noted its goal to provide additional Federal infrastructure funding, and there may be greater potential for special Federal appropriations to assist with these projects in the future – which would likely not be permitted within the new “system unit”.  USFWS officials noted that there are exceptions for navigation dredging activities, however, those requests are considered on a case-by-case basis, and the Town would obviously prefer to avoid that burden.

The attached resolution notes the Town’s formal objection, and specifically requests that the proposed new “system unit” simply be eliminated.  As an alternative, if that approach is not feasible, the attached resolution requests an adjustment to the boundary of the new “system unit” such that it would not include the Bogue Inlet complex, as noted on the attached map.  Essentially, the attached resolution requests that the boundary “hug” the western side of what is considered to be the Bogue Inlet complex. 

If the Board approves the attached resolution, it will be mailed to Senator Burr, Senator Tillis, and Representative Jones in hopes that they will intercede on the Town’s behalf.  As noted, the overall report must be approved by the US Congress, and I am hopeful that the US Congress will be sympathetic to the Town’s concerns.  Carteret County is also expected to express similar objections to our Federal officials. 

I look forward to discussing this issue with the Board at the March 14 meeting, and recommend approval of the attached resolution.