April 22, 2015

NPS sets public meetings, expedites construction
plans to meet new law's requirements

By IRENE NOLAN


Cape Hatteras National Seashore Superintendent David Hallac today released an expedited schedule for new construction that is part of the 2012 Off-Road Vehicle Management plan.

And he also announced five meetings for the first week of May for the public to learn about and comment on an Environmental Assessment (EA) of wildlife buffers and establishing corridors that will be released next week.

Both announcements relate to legislation passed in December by Congress as part of the National Defense Authorization Act that instructs the Secretary of Interior to consider some changes in the ORV plan.

The new law instructs the Secretary to review and adjust wildlife protection buffers, keep them in place the shortest possible duration, designate vehicle and pedestrian corridors around resource closures, and confer with the state of North Carolina on certain buffers and protections.

It also requires that the Park Service under a public process to consider such changes as the earlier opening of beaches that are closed at night during the summer, extending seasonal ORV routes in the fall and spring, and modifying the size and location of vehicle-free areas. And it instructs seashore officials to construct new vehicle access points and roads "as expeditiously as practicable."

Twenty-nine projects that include new ramps, parking areas, pedestrian boardwalks, and an unpaved interdunal road, were listed in the seashore’s 2013 Environmental Assessment (EA) to Facilitate (Construct) Additional Public Beach Access.

The projects are to be funded with ORV permit fees and were not ranked by priority. So far, only one -- Ramp 25.5 between Salvo and Avon -- has been completed, though the parking area there is still under construction.

Since the legislation was passed and Hallac arrived as superintendent, seashore officials have conducted a review of the construction projects.

The Park Service said today in a news release that after the review, the reprioritization of projects places emphasis on those that provide ORV and pedestrian access to key recreational areas within the seashore while providing resource protection.

The construction projects will be phased in over several years. The project titles, original, and expedited schedules are:


The seashore staff has also been working on reviewing and modifying wildlife protection buffers and corridors through the preparation of an Environmental Assessment.

During the week of April 27, the Park Service plans to release the EA, which will present the seashore’s proposed action to modify wildlife buffers and establish corridors. The release of the document will be followed by a two-week public review period.

Five public meetings are scheduled for the week of May 4 to provide the public with the opportunity to learn about the proposed action. They are scheduled for:

  • Monday, May 4. Ocracoke School, 1 Schoolhouse Road, from 6 to 8 p.m.

  • Tuesday, May 5. Buxton at Cape Hatteras Secondary School, 48576 Highway 12, from 6 until 8 p.m.

  • Wednesday, May 6. Raleigh, North Carolina. N.C. State University Campus, McKimmon Conference and Training Center, 1101 Gorman Street, Raleigh, from 6 until 8 p.m.

  • Thursday, May 7. Hampton/ Norfolk, Virginia. Embassy Suites Hampton Roads, 1700 Coliseum Drive, Hampton, from 6 to 8 p.m.

  • Friday, May 8. Kitty Hawk. Hilton Garden Inn, 5353 N. Virginia Dare Trail, Kitty Hawk, from 6 until 8 p.m.

The legislation also requires a public process to consider, consistent with management requirements at the seashore, changes to the ORV special regulation as it relates to morning opening of beaches, extending the length of fall and spring seasonal ORV routes, and modifying vehicle free areas. This second phase of the review will be conducted beginning in July 2015.

For more information, visit the park webpage at:

http://www.nps.gov/caha/learn/management/2015ndaact.htm.

 
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