The National Park Service today
published in the Federal Register its proposed changes to The Cape
Hatteras National Seashore's final rule for off-road vehicle
management that became effective in 2012.
Three of proposed changes that were
published today include new opening times for seashore beaches, new
dates for use of seasonal ORV routes, changes to the size of several
These changes were required by the 2015
Defense Authorization Act, passed by Congress in December 2014, that
required park officials to consider changes that would allow more
public access to seashore beaches.
During the process, seashore officials
also decided to include several other changes to the rule. So the
proposed changes published today also include changes to ORV permit
durations and access improvement on Ocracoke and Hatteras.
Today's proposed rules have also been
through several layers of public scrutiny -- including a public
scoping meeting last summer and a winter meeting on the Environmental
Assessment document that was prepared to compare alternatives the
park could consider when changing the rule.
The proposed changes to the rule that
are published today are open for public comment through Oct. 21.
That document contains a "no
action" alternative, and three action alternatives. The Park
Service's preferred alternative, Alternative 2, might also be called
the "middle- of-the-road alternative." Generally, it allows
more generous access than Alternative 1 but not as much as
Click here to see how the
alternatives were compared by the Park Service back in February.
The proposed rules published today
would make the following changes to the final rule.
BEACH OPENING TIMES
Most ORV routes would continue to open
at 7 a.m., as they now do under the ORV rule. Certain "priority"
beach routes could be opened earlier than 7 a.m., though no
earlier than 6 a.m.
Priority routes, the Park Service said,
were chosen by their proximity to villages and popularity with users.
They would include Ramps 2, 4, 25, 27, 43, 44, 48,
49, 70 and 72. NPS resource staff would patrol these priority
routes before opening so that park resources would be protected even
while earlier access is allowed.
The NPS is proposing to amend
the special regulation to state "no earlier than 6 a.m."
instead of stating a specific time in the regulation. Instead beach
opening times would be published annually in the Superintendent's Compendium.
The Superintendent's Compendium is a
summary of regulations that pertain specifically to the
administration of the park, such as areas closed for public use and
activities that require special permits, that are up to the
discretion of the superintendent and do not require going through the
federal rulemaking process.
This process will give the
superintendent more flexibility over beach opening times without
having to go through the cumbersome and lengthy federal rulemaking
process each time.
SEASONAL ORV ROUTES
Under the proposed rule, seasonal ORV
routes in front of the villages of Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon,
Frisco, and Hatteras and the Ocracoke Campground would be expanded by
two weeks in the spring and fall. Under the new rule, these seasonal
routes would be open from Oct. 15 through April 14
Currently, they are open from Nov. 1
through March 31.
The proposed rule would modify the size
and location of vehicle-free areas and improve access in some
The proposed Ramps 2.5 on Bodie Island
and 59.5 on Ocracoke would not be constructed. Ramp 2 would be
restored to ORV use, extending the existing ORV route by a half-mile
to the north and providing ORV access to the route from either Ramp 4
or Ramp 2. Ramp 59 would continue to be open to ORV use, extending
the existing year-round ORV route about a half-mile.
The seasonal ORV route at Ramp 34 would
be extended 1 mile to the north into what is now a vehicle-free area.
And the seasonal route at Ramp 23 would be extended 1.5 miles to the
south into what is a vehicle-free area.
According to the proposed rule, "The
NPS proposes making these changes to these particular VFAs because it
would slightly increase ORV access on each of the islands without
measurably impacting visitor experience, safety, sensitive wildlife
species, or workload complexity of park staff."
The change at Ramp 23 is especially
important to residents of and visitors to the tri-villages, where ORV
access is limited in the summer months.
Many wanted to see changes to the VFA
south of Cape Point, in the area of the Hook, which is not in the
The Park Service is proposing to remove
the specific times established for the duration of ORV permits from
the special regulation and instead control the duration of the
permits through the Superintendent's Compendium.
This means that any future changes to
the duration would require the proper compliance with the National
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), but would not require going through
the more complicated rulemaking process.
In choosing Alternative 2, the Park
Service would change year-round permits from being valid for the
calendar year to being valid from the day they are issued -- a change
that has long been asked for by beach drivers.
The current 7-day permit would be
changed to a 10-day permit, which, the NPS says, could allow many
users to access the beaches over two weekends.
OCRACOKE ACCESS IMPROVEMENTS
The proposed rule would remove the ORV
route designation from Devil Shoals Road, also know as Dump Station
Road. This is an existing dirt road located across Highway 12 from
the Ocracoke Campground.
This road would be designated a park
road and no ORV permit would be required for driving on it.
The NPS says it proposed these changes
to allow for limited vehicular soundside access on Ocracoke Island
without the requirement of an ORV permit, since there is currently no
soundside vehicular access areas on Ocracoke as there are on the other
HATTERAS ISLAND ACCESS IMPROVEMENT
The proposed rule would extend the
existing Cape Point bypass route south of Ramp 44 by four-tenths of a
mile to the north so it will join with Ramp 44. NPS also proposes
extending the existing bypass approximately 600 feet to the south.
The Park Service proposes extending the
bypass to provide additional access to Cape Point when the ORV route
along the beach is closed for safety or resource protection.
Although the southern extension was not
originally part of the Environmental Assessment, impacts associated
with the bypass route extension would be negligible at most and would
have no impact on wetlands.
You can read the entire document at the
federal rulemaking portal,
MAKING PUBLIC COMMENT
Superintendent David Hallac says that
the Park Service will evaluate all public comments, make a decision
and publish a final rule, which will become effective 30 days after
it is published. He says he is hopeful that the rule changes will go
into effect before next summer.
Public comment may be made by several
received must include the agency name and Regulatory Identifier
Number (RIN) for this rulemaking, 1024-AE33.
submitted through http://www.regulations.gov
or submitted by mail must be entered or postmarked before midnight
(Eastern Daylight Time) Oct. 21, 2016 Comments submitted by hand
delivery must be received by the close of business hours (5 p.m.
Eastern Daylight Time) Oct. 21, 2016.
received through the Federal eRulemaking portal at
will be available without change. Before including your address,
phone number, email address, or other personal identifying
information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire
comment, including your personal identifying information, may be made
publicly available at any time. While you can ask the Park Service in
your comment to withhold your personal identifying information, the
agency cannot guarantee that it will be able to do so. To view
comments received through the Federal eRulemaking portal, go to
and enter 1024-AE33 in the search box.
The Park Service
will not be accepted by fax, email, or in any way other than those
specified above, and bulk comments in any format (hard copy or
electronic) submitted on behalf of others will not be accepted. If
you commented on the EA, your comments have already been considered
in drafting the proposed rule. Comments should focus on this proposed
rule; comments that relate solely to the EA will be untimely and will
not be considered."
frequently asked questions are available here: