March 12, 2008

No Hatteras Island projects go forward for waterfront access funding


The public waterfront access project at the Manns Harbor bridge cleared another hurdle March 3 when a citizen’s advisory committee recommended that the project receive funds from the Waterfront Access and Marine Industry Fund.

Administered by the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF), the Waterfront Access and Marine Industry Fund (WAMI) provides $20 million for the purchase of coastal waterfront properties and the development of public and commercial waterfront access facilities.

“There are so many good projects out there, but the Manns Harbor proposal is really a model project,” said DMF director Louis Daniel.

The project would provide commercial fishing and recreational access to the Croatan Sound, offering boat ramps, docks, picnic areas, parking and restrooms. 

The state would purchase the 12 acres with $2 million from the WAMI fund and $1 million from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund.

The citizen’s advisory committee placed the project at the top of its priority list for projects in the northeast region of the coast.

Other projects in Dare County under consideration didn’t fare as well.

“Nothing on Hatteras Island was recommended for funding and that’s a pretty glaring omission.  There has been a lot of interest there, but all of the proposals fell through for one reason or another,” Daniel said.

One project, the purchase of the 18-acre site in Buxton where the closed Pilot House Restaurant sits, was withdrawn from consideration.

“Environmental concerns became apparent.  The necessary dredging in the area would be through submerged aquatic vegetation that has re-established itself,” Daniel explained.

Two other projects in Dare County, $2.8 million for the purchase of 2.7 acres on the south side of Avon harbor and $2 million to assist the N.C. Aquariums Division with replacement of the old Jennette’s Pier in Nags head with a concrete fishing pier, also received a lukewarm reception by the committee.

“Committee members expressed a great deal of concern that the state would be competing with private businesses operating in the vicinity,” Daniel said.

In addition to the Manns Harbor project, the committee recommended funding four other projects in the northeast region.

One of those projects, building a jetty and boat slips on N.C. Department of Transportation property at the foot of the Alligator River bridge, would cost $452,760.

Ranking behind the Tyrrell County project were the purchase of two parcels in Swan Quarter, Cahoon Seafood and land adjacent to Fisherman’s Wharf.

Rated fourth in priority was the purchase of 7.5 acres in Engelhard for expansion of the Wanchese Seafood Industrial Park.  The Hyde County site would cost $2.7 million.

The state Advisory Committee for the Coordination of Waterfront Access within the Department of Environment and Natural Resources were scheduled to meet on March 11 to develop its priority list.

Daniel said he expects to announce in early April which projects will receive funding.

On the federal level, U.S. Rep. Tom Allen (D-Maine) has introduced the Keep Our Waterfronts Working Act (HR 3223) that would make grants available to states to protect access for commercial and recreational fishermen.

HR 3223 has attracted 12 co-sponsors, including U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.).

“The time is ripe for national legislation to assist the states.  We are at a critical point and need to protect the special quality of our coasts,” Allen said at a Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans hearing in February.


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