At the Dare County Board of Commissioners meeting on March 6, the Hon. J. Richard Parker (Retired), a Roanoke Island resident for 37 years, outlined a funding issue for the upcoming Oregon Inlet Artificial Reef.
Parker is serving as chairman of Oregon Inlet Artificial Reef Committee, a division of the Outer Banks Anglers Club, and the committee is seeking to fund the construction of a new artificial reef in the Oregon Inlet area.
The location of the proposed reef has already been approved by the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries, and has also already given a number – AR165. The location of the reef will be approximately eight miles south of the Oregon Inlet sea buoy, and about three miles offshore in roughly 70’ ft. of water.
“We have a lot of folks coming here fishing, and [the reef is] only eight miles from the sea buoy, so there would be a lot of bottom fishing done there in relatively small boats,” said County Commissioner Wally Overman at the meeting. “You could get there and back to the inlet, without fear of getting into too much trouble – it’s a good project.”
AR165 will be comprised of two retired vessels in the neighborhood of 100-200’ ft. in length, as well as several thousand tons of concrete pipe. The primary source of funding for the project will be a grant from the Coastal Recreational Fishing License (CRFL) sales revenue.
The state of North Carolina has been selling CRFLs since 2007 and everybody age 16 and older who fishes in coastal waters has to purchase a license of some sort – whether it is a 10-day license, annual license, or a lifetime license.
According to Parker, since 2007, Dare County has been either #1 or #2 in the sales of these licenses every year. “We sell about 80,000 licenses a year, and we generate – in Dare County – about $1 million dollars per year [from the sale of these licenses],” said Parker.
The money that is collected from the fishing licenses is used to fund CRFL grants. As Parker reported at the BOC meeting, in the past 10 years, none of this funding has been returned to Dare County for the construction or the enhancement of artificial reefs.
Parker was asked by the board if Dare County had ever received any funds from CRFL. “Not that I know of,” he replied, noting that he did not go all the way back to 2007 when the program started. “The only thing I know of is in 2015, Jennette’s Pier requested some funding and received a little over $11,000 for the pier for part-time help.”
With these numbers in mind, in 2016, the Oregon Inlet Artificial Reef Committee submitted a grant proposal to the Marine Fisheries CRFL committee. “In fact, we were the only group in 2016 to submit a grant proposal,” said Parker.
“We were recently informed by the CRFL committee that we were approved in the amount of $371,000 for year one of our proposal, but we were required to provide matching funds of $264,600. These matching funds came to 30% of the total project value.”
“With the exception of North Carolina State University, no other group in the state of North Carolina has ever been required to provide matching funds in the amount of 30%,” he added, “[And] matching funds are not a requirement for receiving a grant proposal. They are [just] encouraged, as way of showing support for local projects.”
The Oregon Inlet Artificial Reef Committee has made efforts to solicit contributions from businesses and individuals, and also started a Go Fund Me account and PayPal account to accept contributions. “Unfortunately, we’ve only been able to raise about $1,000,” said Parker. “I’m here to ask you for your help.”
Parker drafted a letter for the board to send to the Chairman of the NC Marine Fisheries Commission and the Director of the NC Division of Marine Fisheries to reconsider the 30% matching requirement. The board unanimously approved sending the letter.
“In the event your CRFL Committee insists on requiring the Oregon Inlet Artificial Reef Committee to provide matching funds of 30% of the total project value, we offer the following solution,” the final letter reads. “Designate the first $264,600 of CRFL sales in Dare County during the current cycle as matching funds for our local group’s funding proposal. The roughly $700 in remaining revenue would still be about twice as much as produced by the next closest coastal community.”
The letter also noted that while Dare County had received no funds in the past 10 years for artificial reef enhancement or construction, other coastal counties had “benefitted substantially by way of CRFL grants.” For example, the letter reports, in 2014, the Onslow Bay Artificial Reef Association in New Hanover County received a grant in the amount of $637,500, while in 2015 the Long Bay Artificial Reef Association located in Brunswick County received a grant in the amount of $339,000.
The letter was signed by Dare County Commissioner Chairman Bob Woodard and was sent on March 7.
A PDF of the full letter can be read here.