May 14, 2015
proposed consolidation of the Dare County Oregon Inlet and Waterways
Commission and the Oregon Inlet Task Force has been met with strong
pushback from users of Hatteras Inlet, who fear their needs will be
swamped by Oregon Inlet’s continual woes.
Two sides clash at meeting to
discuss merger of inlet panels
By CATHERINE KOZAK
At a contentious
meeting on Thursday of the ad-hoc committee appointed by the Dare
County Board of Commissioners to discuss details of a merger,
Commissioner Allen Burrus, a committee member, insisted that Hatteras
Inlet be specifically included in whatever committee, legislation and
funding is employed to address inlet dredging.
Commissioners Warren Judge and Beverly Boswell, the chairwoman, are the other two members.
doesn’t need to happen, Burrus said, is a return to when there was Dare
County, and then there was Hatteras Island as an afterthought.
point is, we don’t need to separate things out,” Burrus said. “We
need to work together to get things done. I’m not interested in going
back to the 1980s.”
Choked by massive migrating shoals, Oregon
Inlet had been barely navigable until last month. And Hatteras Inlet
has a severely shoaled navigational channel, forcing ferry and charter
vessel traffic to use a longer channel.
Burrus said that some
people seem to resent that Hatteras expects attention. But, he said,
Hatteras Island contributes about 25 percent of the county’s occupancy
tax revenue – most of it related to tourism and fishing . So the island
is not looking for a handout by seeking its share of tax revenue to
maintain a waterway used by tourists and fishing activities.
others said they were worried that there is too much going on in
Raleigh and Washington, and that ongoing efforts could be diluted.
Daniels, who has been on the Waterways Commission since it first was
formed, said he agrees that Hatteras Inlet needs attention. But he does
not want to take the focus off Oregon Inlet.
“Sometimes if you hone in on one thing,” he said, “you can do better.”
questioned why the board objected to state legislation that would tap
the county’s beach nourishment fund, which is funded by a 2-cent
occupancy tax, for dredging.
“It was a perfect thing for y’all to use,” he said.
agreed: “We had it in our hot little hands,” she said, adding that she
had assured the board that the bill included both inlets.
Judge said that the occupancy tax proposal was not an agenda item, and
the surprised board had no time to consider it. Nonetheless, after much
discussion, he said, the board did vote to use the county share of the
Britton Shackelford, a Wanchese waterman, was
sympathetic to Hatteras’ concerns. But Oregon Inlet, he said, has
bigger boats, national parks on both sides, the Bonner Bridge and
“I don’t understand Hatteras Inlet,” he
said. “I do understand it’s a mess. I do know it’s a vital resource in
Dare County. It needs its own group.”
Shackelford urged that future meetings be held at night so that more people could attend.
Michah Daniels, Mikey’s daughter, suggested that the Task Force could be a model for a similar panel focused on Hatteras Inlet.
to a draft of an April 21 letter signed by Waterways Commission
chairman Dave May, a vote had been taken by the commission to “comply
with the wishes of the Dare County Board of Commissioners to disband.”
Board Chairman Bob Woodard said Thursday that there was no directive from
the board to disband. He said it was more of a conclusion the two
boards had reached after discussing for months the possibility of
combining. Fewer people were participating in the Waterways Commission,
and much of its original role has been taken over by the county staff
and the Task Force.
“It was discussed among both sides of
possibly merging that board, and possibly disbanding,” Woodard said. “I
said, ‘If that’s the case, then y’all need to vote on it and send us a
letter.’ We couldn’t accept this verbally.”
The commission was
created in 1983 to advise the county on Oregon Inlet and act as liaison
between federal agencies. The Task Force was established in 2013 to
focus on solutions to navigation issues in Oregon Inlet.
the waterways commission April meeting , it was agreed that May and
commission member Jed Dixon would move over to the Task Force. But no
membership from Hatteras Island was named. Commission member Ernie
Foster from Hatteras objected to the proposal.
“Ernie again and quite upset stated that he felt that Hatteras Inlet is being left out,” the meeting’s draft minutes said.
said that the Board of Commissioners would have to vote to approve
dissolution of the commission, as well as creation of a merged
The ad-hoc group was given 30 days to come up with
a name and membership for the merged committee, Woodard said. But until
it comes back to the board, it won’t be clear how the increasingly
urgent and messy issues will be resolved.
“We may do something else,” Woodard said.
Midgett said that her family's businesses include Midgett Realty as
well as Hatteras Landing and Teach's Lair marinas, so she has interests
in both tourism and fishing. The increased shoaling, she
said, has affected not only ferry traffic to and from Ocracoke
Island from Hatteras – the busiest ferry route in the state – it is
also having a detrimental impact on the fishing industry.
For instance, Midgett said, only 28 private and charter fishing vessels
are participating in the 21st annual Hatteras Village Offshore Open
Tournament that began this week. At its height in 2007, there
were 70 vessels. She said bigger boats avoid Hatteras Inlet because of
“We want those big boats," she said. "It’s a huge difference in the vibe of the village.”
Midgett said that she was concerned that the proposed merged committee did not include a representative from Hatteras.
“All we are asking for is what we had,” she said. “I think bringing
everybody to the table –somehow, someway – that has to be done.”
As Oregon Inlet conditions improve, attention turns to long-term solutions