Environmental concerns among issues for new coastal commission

by Michelle Saxton
Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Promoting greater appreciation throughout North Carolina for coastal counties and developing ways to better protect natural resources and the economy are among goals for new local members of the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission. 

Sandstone Properties owner Frank Gorham of Wilmington now serves as the commission’s chairman, filling a governor-appointed seat for a coastal property owner or member with experience in land development.

“There is a tremendous disconnect between what people I call ‘east of (Interstate) 95’ know about the coast versus the people west of 95, the majority of people who live in the state,” Gorham said in a Monday, Oct. 21, phone interview. “Whether you talk about monies to help restore beaches, monies to help estuarine projects, monies to help protect the environment – we just aren’t getting the support.”

Gorham wants to talk with others in the state about how valuable the state’s coastal areas are, including tourism, second homes, rentals and hotels, and also not just in terms of money but heritage too.

“We have something to treasure,” Gorham said. “We have something to protect.”

Gorham is among six new members Gov. Pat McCrory recently appointed to the Coastal Resources Commission. State lawmakers changed the group’s makeup earlier this year and cut the commission’s 15 positions to 13.

McCrory also re-appointed three previous members, while Senate leadership recommended two other appointments. Two more appointment recommendations were expected by House leadership.

The commission last met in July.

The new commission will meet Nov. 4 to consider a draft agenda for a December meeting. Issues that may be addressed include considering feasibility studies for changing Areas of Environmental Concern near the Cape Fear River on Bald Head Island and Caswell Beach and the possible elimination of Inlet Hazard Areas of Environmental Concern, state Department of Environment and Natural Resources spokeswoman Michele Walker said Oct. 21.

Board members also may consider appointments to the Coastal Resources Advisory Council. Lawmakers ended terms for the council’s 45 members this year and called on the commission to appoint a new council of 20 members.

“This advisory council is equal to or more important than the CRC,” Gorham said. “They’re our eyes and ears.”

Meanwhile, other new CRC members include Andrew Consulting Engineers President Neal Andrew of Wilmington, who fills a seat requiring experience in engineering or a marine-related science. 

“I need to spend some time getting up to speed with some of the more recent meeting issues and topics — that’s going to be my first priority,” Andrew said Friday, Oct. 18. “Beyond that I don’t have a pre-set agenda.”

Andrew said he soon planned to develop a list of issues after talking with local regulatory officials, state Division of Coastal Management leaders and possibly people in the marine industry.

Bald Head Island Conservancy and Smith Island Land Trust Executive Director Suzanne Dorsey fills a seat requiring experience in coastal related business. 

Dorsey, also a marine sciences adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, sees the CRC’s mission as balancing coastal environmental and economic needs and providing wise policy for development and management.

That includes having economic resources for a growing and more permanent coastal population as people retire or have businesses here, preventing areas from being wiped out in storms, planning ahead for decisions such as road and inlet repairs after future storms and developing risk management tools to protect the coast’s economy and environment from threats such as erosion and salt water intrusion, Dorsey said Oct. 18. 

“Our natural resources protect our economy, and they are under threat,” Dorsey said.

McCrory’s other appointments include: Carteret County Commission Chairman Greg Lewis (coastal property owner or person experienced in land development), Bill Naumann of Craven County (engineering or a marine-related science seat) and Benjamin Simmons Jr. of Hyde County (coastal agriculture seat). 

The governor reappointed former Nags Head Mayor Renee Cahoon of Dare County (local government within the coastal area), former CRC Chairman Bob Emory of Craven County (coastal forestry) and Lee Wynns of Bertie County (commercial fishing).

For more information on the Coastal Resources Commission visit http://dcm2.enr.state.nc.us/CRC/crc.htm

email michelle@luminanews.com

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