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Hi, and welcome to my "Editor's Blog"! In this space I'll be attempting to keep our readers informed on fast-breaking news and issues affecting our islands. Visit often. There's a lot going on!

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Under discussion on Monday: Ferry channel in Hatteras Inlet

Friday 22 August 2014 at 7:02 pm

Representatives of the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the North Carolina Department of Transportation will announce Monday that the "alternate" route has become the "official" route for the Hatteras-Ocracoke Ferry.

The Coast Guard made the announcement this morning in a release to the media that billed the event as a "media availability."

The event will be on Monday, Aug. 25, at 1 p.m. at  the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras village.
Rumors about the event have been circulating among folks on Hatteras and Ocracoke for a week or so but reached a fever pitch in the past few days, and especially this morning, as people scrambled to find out what they could about the meeting.

They were getting fairly desperate for information, any information, on whether there was really a meeting, where and when it will be, what the subject of discussion will be.

Now, you may be wondering why there is all of this excitement and angst about the establishment of a ferry channel.

The answer to that question is that how ferries and other boats -- the Hatteras charter and commercial fleets and private vessels-- travel across and through Hatteras Inlet is a huge economic issue.

Historically, the boats have used a route, designated as Rollinson Channel, from Hatteras village to the end of the Hatteras spit.  There, boats could take a turn and go through Hatteras Inlet out into the ocean or continue on to the north Ocracoke ferry docks in a state-maintained channel.

That route meant a quick 40-minute run for the ferries and a quick shot to the inlet for watermen heading out to the ocean for commercial or recreational fishing, both of which are big industries on the islands.

In recent years, Rollinson Channel has become increasingly difficult to keep open because of shifting sands and shoaling along the route.  The shoaling increased after Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

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We are not alone, Part II

Friday 15 August 2014 at 3:37 pm

Island Free Press reader Mike Metzgar, a member of the board of directors of the North Carolina Beach Buggy Association, still quite often sends us links to articles in the media about controversies at other parks.

I read them all and find them interesting and informative -- and especially informative in what they tell us about the National Park Service and its relationships with the communities in which parks are located.

What the articles tell us is that we are not alone in our recent disagreements with the Park Service over such issues as regulations, science, and transparency.

A couple years ago, I rounded up a bunch of stories that Mike had e-mailed over the past months in a blog entitled, "We are not alone."

Mike has sent us many stories since that blog but some of those we've received from him this summer have especially caught my attention.

So, here's "We are not alone, Part II." If you want more information, there are links to media coverage at the end of the blog.

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Don't believe everything you read

Friday 08 August 2014 at 4:57 pm

Don't believe everything you read, so they say.

And in this case, it's true.

If you have read that the U.S. Court Appeals for the Fourth Circuit "overturned" the lawsuit brought by environmental groups against state and federal agencies over their plan to replace the aging Herbert C. Bonner Bridge, don't believe it.

Yesterday, folks on the Outer Banks were scrambling to make sense of the news reports on Wednesday's decision.

They were trying to figure out what the opinion really means for going forward with the project so fervently that you would have thought their lives depended on it.

And one of these days, they might.

Anyway, news reports in almost every media I checked Wednesday and yesterday referred to the decision being "overturned" -- in either the headline or at the very beginning of the article.

The first thing you should understand about the Appeals Court decision is that it did not overturn a lower court decision in a lawsuit filed by environmental groups over the decision by N.C. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway administration to replace the bridge.

You have to read only to Page 4 of the 57-page decision to figure that out.

On Page 4, the appeals judges say that they "affirm the district court's determination that Defendants complied with NEPA, reverse the district court's determination that a special exemption frees Defendants from complying with Section 4(f), and remand for further proceedings."

In this case, the Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of its clients, Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Refuge Association, sued DOT and FHWA in 2011, challenging their replacement decision.

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