June 17, 2015

NPS takes steps to streamline Buxton beach nourishment


The National Park Service announced today that it will prepare an Environmental Assessment -- instead of a more complicated Environmental Impact Statement -- to streamline its assessment of a Dare County project to nourish beaches in north Buxton.

The county's project, which is being undertaken to protect Highway 12 from erosion and ocean overwash, will involve Cape Hatteras National Seashore beaches. Therefore, it requires a special use permit from the Park Service.

Last December, the Park Service announced it would prepare an Environmental Impact Statement -- or EIS -- in order to evaluate the project's impacts on seashore beaches. Last January, NPS had public scoping meeting and accepted comment on its intention to prepare the EIS.

Today's announcement that that park officials will switch to an EA was published in the Federal Register and is significant for several reasons.

David Hallac, seashore superintendent, said today that the Park Service heard "loud and clear" from local residents at the public meetings and in comments that the process needed to be speeded up as much as possible.

The switch to the EA, he said, "makes more sense, is more efficient, and is quicker."

Hallac explained that two federal agencies are required to prepare environmental documents for the nourishment project -- the NPS and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps, he said, was already doing an EA.

And after the public meetings and comments, seashore officials realized that the full-blown EIS was not needed.

"The impacts are not going to be nearly what we thought they would be," said Michelle Havens, the seashore's chief of natural resources.  For instance, she said, the project will have much less impact on turtle nesting than originally thought.

"Preliminary analysis of the alternatives," according to the Federal Register notice, "shows there is no potential for significant impacts to park resources and values and no concerns or issues were expressed during the public scoping process that would have the potential for highly controversial impacts."

Park Service staff members have already been regularly meeting with county officials and representatives of the state and federal regulatory agencies involved in the nourishment project.  Now, the Army Corps  becomes the lead federal agency responsible for preparing the EA, consistent with the National Environmental Policy Act.

The project, which the county estimates will cost about $25 million, is on currently on schedule to start early next summer and be completed in August.  Funding for the project is coming from a 2 percent occupancy tax that the county has levied for restoration projects in unincorporated Dare and its municipalities.

Click here to read to read the federal register annoucement.

For more information, contact Dennis Brookie, Project Manager for the National Park Service, at 303-969-2493 or Raleigh Bland, Project Manager with the USACE, at 910-251-4564.  Information may also be found on the park’s PEPC website at:  http://parkplanning.nps.gov/projectHome.cfm?projectID=55120.

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