Beach News


Beach News is a courtesy service provided by the Carteret County Shore Protection Office that furnishes on-line news relevant to the beaches of North Carolina with special emphasis to Carteret County.  Please visit if you wish to be added to or removed from the "Beach News" distribution list.   Recent "Beach News" is provided below.

BEACH NEWS for 2017

Could NC regulators make beach nourishment easier, cheaper?

Nourishment project prepares Atlantic Beach for summer

Beach nourishment in Buxton scheduled to start May 21

The beach is back at Edisto

Trump to sign order aimed at expanding offshore drilling

Trump To Sign Executive Order On Offshore Drilling And Marine Sanctuaries

Trump order could expand drilling, roll back sanctuaries
Corbin Hiar, E&E News reporter, April 27, 2017
President Trump tomorrow will call for sweeping reviews of recent federal offshore energy development and conservation policies, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said tonight at a White House briefing.  The reviews, to be led by Zinke and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, will be required by an executive order targeting offshore oil and gas leasing plans, regulations and permitting standards put in place by the Obama administration after the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and oil spill as well as marine sanctuaries and monuments created by Presidents Obama and George W. Bush.   "One thing that does not change between administrations is a commitment to safety," Zinke told reporters. "Good stewardship of our lands and waters and responsible offshore development are not mutually exclusive."
The executive order also will seek to reverse a permanent ban on oil and gas drilling in most Arctic waters and portions of the Atlantic Ocean that Obama put in place under a provision of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. But it is unclear whether Trump has the authority to undo those leasing withdrawals (E&E News PM, Dec. 20, 2016).  Zinke emphasized that the order won't immediately open up any areas of the outer continental shelf to drilling. But it will set in motion a two-year public process to reconsider which areas are suitable for leasing for oil, gas and wind development as part of a new five-year plan. The review will tackle lease planning areas in the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic and Arctic.  Zinke said the administration had not heard any oil companies express interest in Arctic drilling and that he wasn't sure how the plan would take into account melting Arctic ice.  "I have not thought about climate change," Zinke said. "I'm sure we'll look at that."
Zinke and Ross will work together to streamline the seismic surveying process, which will include a review of Commerce guidance on minimizing harm to whales and other marine mammals.  Ross also will be instructed to reconsider within 180 days all protected marine areas created within the past decade. Zinke said the process would be similar to the review of national monuments that Trump directed the Interior secretary to undertake earlier this week (Greenwire, April 25).  The order also will call for Interior to reconsider blowout preventer regulations, the well control rule and Arctic drilling requirements.

Privatizing flood insurance could stabilize program — GAO
Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News reporter, April 27, 2017
Expanding the private flood insurance market could allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency to focus on better flood mapping and mitigation, the Government Accountability Office said in a new report.  The idea to expand the private flood insurance market has been gaining traction in Congress as the National Flood Insurance Program comes up for reauthorization (E&E Daily, April 27).
Supporters of increased privatization see it as a way to minimize the financial burden for NFIP, which is $26.4 billion in debt.
According to the GAO report, a greater private footprint and a more focused FEMA "could address the policy goal of reducing federal fiscal exposure while promoting flood resilience."
But, knowing expanding privatization won't be easy, the GAO report presented lawmakers with issues potentially needing reform.  For one, FEMA currently prohibits the use of subsidized rates for policies with a lapse in NFIP coverage for more than 90 days. So if a homeowner who qualified for a subsidy switched to private insurance and then wanted to move back to an NFIP policy, he or she would no longer qualify for subsidized rates.  GAO also noted that NFIP data on flood losses and claims are currently not available to private companies interested in entering the flood insurance market.  "Access to such data would allow private insurance companies to better estimate losses, price flood insurance premiums, and determine which properties they might be willing to insure," the watchdog said. FEMA has been reluctant to share the information because of privacy concerns under the Privacy Act of 1974.
GAO said Congress could circumvent these barriers by clarifying the mandatory purchase requirement for flood insurance to include private policies, directing FEMA to allow private coverage to satisfy NFIP's continuous coverage requirements, and amending the Privacy Act to allow the government to enter into confidentiality agreements with private insurers.  Reforms are not without pitfalls. GAO found that more private-sector involvement "could cause a greater portion of NFIP's portfolio to be composed of higher-risk policies," driving it further into debt.  A greater presence by private companies in the flood insurance market was one of six potential reform ideas GAO examined in its report.  
The government watchdog also delved into other ways to solve the program's debt. One idea, raising NFIP premiums to reflect risk of loss, would have the benefit of reducing the number of government subsidies.  It would also better communicate risk to policyholders, who may be more willing to live in frequently flooded areas because of low insurance rates, and would allow private insurers to better compete on the market.  However, raising policy rates could also make the NFIP less affordable and decrease the number of policyholders overall, GAO found.

Brunswick County looks to reopen, maintain Lockwood Folly Inlet 

NC looks to tweak protected species list

UNC-IMS researchers seek participants in high water recording project

Dredge arrives at Big Foot Slough

South Carolina legislators put hold on environmental stall tactic bill 

Flooding an ongoing threat for state

Republicans introduce sweeping ESA reform bill
Corbin Hiar, E&E News reporter, April 27, 2017
Republican lawmakers this week revived legislation that would significantly limit the Fish and Wildlife Service's ability to protect imperiled animals and plants.  Shepherding the "Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act," S. 935, are Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Dean Heller of Nevada.  Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) introduced a companion bill in the House, H.R. 2134, the text of which was not yet publicly available.
The Senate package is an expanded version of the Endangered Species Act reform bills that Paul, Heller and Luetkemeyer backed last Congress.  S. 935 would amend the ESA to require Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who oversees FWS, to obtain the consent of governors before making management decisions that would affect species within their states.  It would also require congressional approval of the endangered and threatened species lists and automatically remove plants or animals after five years.  Furthermore, the bill would require federal power marketing administrations to include the direct and indirect costs of complying with the ESA on customers' monthly electricity bills.
An indirect cost, the measure says, would include the "forgone power generation costs and replacement power costs, including the net costs of any transmission power."  S. 935 would also make it easier for landowners to seek compensation from the federal government and prevent groups that successfully sue FWS under the ESA from recouping their attorneys' fees.  A new provision this year would weaken protections for ravens and calf-killing black vultures, neither of which is a listed species.  "We can better protect endangered species by empowering state leaders to implement a strategy more tailored to their specific circumstances," Paul said in a statement. "Instead of continuing Washington's 'one-size-fits-all' approach to regulation, this bill puts local needs first and guards against bureaucratic overreach."  While many Republicans have shown an interest in updating the ESA, the drastic reforms put forward by Paul, Heller and Luetkemeyer may struggle to win widespread support. Neither the House nor the Senate versions of their bills made it out of committee during the 114th Congress.

Buxton beach nourishment project on track for an early summer start 

Leatherback sea turtle found dead behind Isle of Palms sea wall

Climate change could spell 'extreme poverty' in coastal NZ towns

4/24/17 Update - 

Battling erosion an endless job for South Carolina beach towns 

Debate simmers over Atlantic oil, gas exploration

Pamlico Sound Ferry Routes to Run Limited Schedules Due to Shoaling

Seven public art projects to call attention to climate change, rising sea levels 

Keeping the coastal freeway clear  

Coast Guard pulls navigational aids from Lockwood Folly Inlet 

Oak Island doubles sea oat output to fortify dunes

Judge Dismisses Topsail Dune Rule Case

Nesting sea turtles face difficulty this summer; more monitors are requested 

KDH Planning Board votes against raising hotel heights

Insurers face 'enormous' losses from sea-level rise
Erika Bolstad, E&E News, April 20, 2017
Sea-level rise and its future risks must be factored into any reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program, warn the actuaries who assess risk for insurers.  A public policy report released yesterday by the American Academy of Actuaries calls on Congress to consider sea-level rise — among many other factors — as part of the reauthorization of the federally backed flood insurance program.  The prospect of rising seas is the change to global climate that's "the hardest to overlook," the report says. The U.S. is especially vulnerable to large property losses because of the amount of valuable property in at-risk coastal areas.  The Academy of Actuaries also suggests that better mapping and data might help people with homes at risk of flooding by opening up the market to greater participation by private insurers and reinsurers. The program remains $24 billion in debt, in part because of large losses after Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina, as well as losses last year after flooding in Louisiana and after Hurricane Matthew in the Carolinas.
The report found it would be impossible to maintain current premiums coverage and eligibility in the face of sea-level rise, without severe limits on construction or massive investments in infrastructure. Otherwise, the U.S. faces exposure to "enormous program losses" and additional debt.
However, improvements in how flood risks are assessed and modeled already are reducing the uncertainties surrounding flood risk, the report notes.  "Better data and more advanced models are giving us a clearer view of flood risk, which opens up additional opportunities for private insurers and reinsurers to underwrite flood risk," Rade Musulin, the academy's vice president for casualty, said in a statement.  Most Americans support updates to how flood insurance is managed, according to the findings of a national survey released yesterday by the Pew Charitable Trusts' Flood-Prepared Communities project (Climatewire, April 6).  Most Americans surveyed said they think that when a house is sold, the sellers should have to disclose whether it has ever been flooded. They also think that construction in flood-prone areas should be required to better withstand the impacts of flooding. The poll's finding had broad bipartisan support, a key factor as Congress reauthorizes the program this year.
The American Academy of Actuaries and several partners last year released the Actuaries Climate Index, a way of tracking the frequency of extreme climate events. It's also designed to help actuaries, policymakers and the general public understand climate trends and their potential impact.  The Actuaries Climate Index is a way of tracking the frequency of extreme climate events. The first index showed that the frequency of heat waves and extreme rain events is on the rise, along with sea levels (Climatewire, Dec. 1, 2016).  The index provides a quarterly measure of changes in extreme weather events and sea levels. Risks measured in the index, which spans from 1960 to 2016, are compared against the average frequency of the same events during the reference period.  The index looks at the frequency of temperatures above the 90th percentile, the frequency of temperatures below the 10th percentile, the maximum five-day rainfall in a month, consecutive dry days, winds above the 90th percentile and sea-level rise.  Eventually, insurance companies could use the information in their models to look at what leads to insurance claims and better understand how climate is affecting their claim costs.

4/19/17 Update - 

When Rising Seas Transform Risk Into Certainty

Jousting over the Jug-Handle

Return to shorter Hatteras ferry route faces strong currents 

Dare County Awarded Increase in CRS Ranking

Ready to visit Hunting Island next month? A bus ride might be required

Battle over landmark law already raging out of public eye
Corbin Hiar, E&E News reporter, April 17, 2017
With most of Washington focused on fights over government funding, Obamacare and Russian meddling, a few congressional aides and outside advocates are quietly preparing for what could be an epic battle over the Endangered Species Act.  The contentious conservation law was protected by President Obama's veto from Republican efforts to ease restrictions on farmers, energy companies and developers.  But with Republicans now controlling Capitol Hill and the White House for the first time since 2004, the endangered species law — which hasn't been significantly updated since 1988 — appears vulnerable. On one side of the fight are staffers for House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah), who said last year that he wants to repeal and replace the law (E&E Daily, Dec. 9, 2016).  But in the 115th Congress, Bishop is instead focused on narrow sections of the ESA that Republicans and industry groups find problematic.  His first hearing this year centered on a provision requiring input from the Fish and Wildlife Service or National Marine Fisheries Service — agencies that jointly administer the ESA — on government-approved or -funded projects that could "jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or threatened species, or result in the destruction or adverse modification of [critical] habitat of such species"(E&E Daily, March 29).  The hearing was held by the increasingly important Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, a panel Bishop created after winning the Natural Resources gavel two years ago (E&E Daily, Jan. 14, 2015).  Led since January by Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), Oversight has seven full-time GOP staffers — more than any other Natural Resources subcommittee, according to data from LegiStorm, a congressional staff tracking service.  Oversight staff director Rob Gordon, a veteran of the Hill's periodic ESA fights, and counsel Megan Olmstead, a relative newcomer, will provide Republican lawmakers with most of the legislative ammunition they need. They and many other staffers featured in this story were not made available for interviews.  Gordon, who spent seven years at the conservative Heritage Foundation before returning to the Natural Resources panel when Bishop took over, also served as the Trump transition team's advisor on regulatory reform (E&E Daily, Jan. 22, 2015). He has been working for decades to overhaul the law.  
"The time is ripe to amend significantly the Endangered Species Act," he wrote in a 1994 article for Heritage's now defunct Policy Review journal. Had the law been in existence during biblical times, Gordon wrote, Noah "might have been reviled as an animal-hater, fined, and kept from launching his ark" because he wouldn't have thought to bring aboard certain reptile and insect species.  At the time, Gordon was the executive director of the National Wilderness Institute. The Vanderbilt University graduate left the oil industry-funded environmental group in 2004 to support the failed ESA reform efforts of former Resources Chairman Richard Pombo (R-Calif.).  Olmstead is working closely with Gordon on the committee's reform efforts. After graduating a decade ago from the University of Portland, a Catholic school in Oregon, she bounced between Capitol Hill, the Idaho governor's office and the University of Notre Dame's law school before ending up with Natural Resources in September 2015, her profile on the social networking site LinkedIn shows. In law school, she studied the gray wolf's status under the ESA.
Senate players
Across the Capitol, staffers for Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) are also formulating an overhaul strategy.  So far, Barrasso has held one hearing that sought to build bipartisan consensus for ESA reform and marked up a bill that he introduced with ranking member Tom Carper (D-Del.) that would revive and bolster several wildlife protection programs and launch annual innovation prizes for endangered species management and other conservation challenges (Greenwire, April 5).   Matt Leggett, the committee's deputy chief counsel, and Andrew Harding, who took his first Hill job as counsel in September 2016, are two of Barrasso's lead ESA reformers.  Leggett began working for the chairman in 2012 as policy counsel for the Senate Republican Policy Committee, which Barrasso then led. The University of Virginia and Vanderbilt University Law School graduate also worked in corporate law and served on the House Agriculture Committee and in the offices of Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) and former Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.). As an intern, Leggett worked with Robert Spencer, when he was U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Erskine Bowles, when he was chief of staff to President Clinton.  Soon after joining the committee, Harding helped get last year's water infrastructure bill (S. 612) passed into law. He is now mainly focusing on wildlife and oceans policies.  Harding previously worked for corporate law firms, President George W. Bush's Energy secretaries and USA Synthetic Fuel Corp., a bankrupt coal liquefaction company. He earned his bachelor's degree at Washington and Lee University and graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law, according to LinkedIn.
The counselors' efforts are overseen by staff director Richard Russell, who earned a bachelor's degree in biology at Yale University, and deputy staff director Brian Clifford, who has worked for Barrasso in a variety of roles over the past decade.  Any reform legislation Barrasso's team produces will need to secure the votes of at least eight Democrats on the Senate floor to beat a filibuster. Their first challenge, however, will be winning over Mary Frances Repko, Carper's deputy staff director.  "If you have dealt with the environment, if you have dealt with energy, or if you have dealt with the history of the Senate and the House on energy legislation and environmental legislation over the last 20 years, you know Mary Frances Repko," House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said in a January floor speech honoring her for a decade of service in his office. The Maryland Democrat also noted she had worked closely with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on "fighting partisan anti-environment riders."  Repko headed to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee the following month, the committee she staffed from 2003 until 2007, when she left to join Hoyer. She has also served on the staffs of Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.).  Prior to coming to the Hill, Repko worked on water issues for the World Wildlife Fund, a conservation group, and the Great Lakes Commission. The native of East Lansing, Mich., earned her bachelor's degree at Johns Hopkins University and a master's from the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment.
Outside voices
Republicans' push for an ESA overhaul is likely to draw support from the Western Governors' Association.  Under the leadership of Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R) in 2016, the conservative-leaning organization began advocating for ESA changes. At the same time, WGA endorsed a policy position urging Congress to reauthorize the law and this year convinced the National Governors Association to adopt a similar resolution (E&E News PM, March 2).  While Mead is no longer WGA chairman, policy adviser David Willms is still leading a series of meetings with a broad coalition of participants that aim to produce a specific set of recommendations that could make the ESA work better.  "We took some of the ideas that came out of that first year and have made them the subject of work sessions during the second year of this initiative," Willms said in a phone interview from Cheyenne, Wyo., which he, his wife and two young daughters call home.  The sessions will wrap up in May, and the WGA hopes to have a list of fixes ready to promote by midsummer.  "Whether that is a set of recommendations that is taken to the Fish and Wildlife Service for regulatory changes, whether it includes recommended statutory changes, policy changes — all of that is to be determined," he said. "But that's what we're moving towards, is seeing if there are places where there is consensus."  The recommendations are being put together by representatives from state and federal government as well as groups representing sportsmen, environmentalists and the energy, lumber and agriculture industries. But Willms, who has also served in the Wyoming attorney general's office and worked in private practice, declined to say exactly who is involved at this point.
One unlikely participant: the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife.  "I certainly believe fundamentally that the Endangered Species Act could work better," said Jamie Rappaport Clark, the president and CEO of Defenders. "And if there are ways to work better, we want to help that effort."  Rappaport Clark, who was President Clinton's Fish and Wildlife Service director, and her staff are also involved in the initiative in hopes that they can steer it more toward administrative reforms. That way, she said during an interview in her glass-encased corner office suite, "we can maybe save the battle legislatively, because it's going to be pretty dramatic."  But if a GOP reform bill emerges, Rappaport Clark — who often works seven days a week and uses a treadmill desk when she's in the office — is ready to lead the fight against it.  "I don't see a reform effort strengthening the law" in this Congress, she said. "I can only see a reform effort that will undermine and weaken the law's ability to achieve its purposes."  Rappaport Clark, an avid equestrian who lives in Virginia horse country with her husband and teenage son, is already working to educate Democratic senators about the damage that Defenders fears Republicans could do to vulnerable species and habitats. She is also attempting to rally other more broadly focused conservation groups, which are busy fighting to prevent the rollback of climate protection regulations and other environmental policies.  Her pitch is that the ESA is essentially the law of last resort for the environment.  "When the Clean Water Act fails, when the land laws fail, the Endangered Species Act will save enough," she said. "We're not going to allow extinction."  That should be enough to rally the progressive community of Democratic lawmakers, environmentalists, minority groups, labor unions, religious groups and human rights organizations, Rappaport Clark reasoned.  "If — maybe I should say, when — the Endangered Species Act is truly under an assault, I have every expectation that folks will be there with us," she said, before tapping her desk for good measure. "Knock on wood, please. They'd better be."

4/17/17 Update - 

The Release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Bogue Banks Master Beach Nourishment Plan (BBMBNP), on Bogue Banks Barrier Island, Carteret County, NC
DEIS  - 

April 2017 Meeting Materials for the Coastal Resources Commission & CRAC

Nags Head beach nourishment in 2018?

Inventory Tracks ‘Armoring’ of Beaches, Inlets

Locals seek action to keep Lockwood Folly Inlet open

Update on the Connecting Channel – and Some Highly Anticipated Good News

McMaster cool to offshore drilling

Environmental groups concerned about off-shore drilling executive order

D.C. Circuit Removes Hurdle to Northern Spotted Owl Critical Habitat Designation Challenge

4/13/17 Update - 

Realtors plant sea oats as part of ‘Action Day’

Company mapping, surveying Carteret County's shoreline 

Shoreline Stabilization; Terminal Groins in Ocean Isle and Holden Beach 

Coastal Towns Brace For Beach Funding Cuts 

Manatee Reclassified from Endangered to Threatened 

Appeals court revives industry lawsuit over owl habitat
Amanda Reilly, E&E News reporter, Tuesday, April 11, 2017
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found that lumber companies had legal standing to sue over the Obama administration's decision to designate more than 9.5 million acres for the threatened species.  The Fish and Wildlife Service's argument that the designation won't decrease the timber available for companies to harvest "defies basic common sense," wrote Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a George W. Bush appointee, for the court.
Judges Thomas Griffith, also a Bush appointee, and Sri Srinivasan, an Obama appointee, joined the opinion, which reverses a lower-court decision to dismiss the case.  The northern spotted owl has been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 1990. It's found in coniferous forests from British Columbia to central California.
In 2012, FWS finalized its critical habitat for the owl, an area stretching through Washington, Oregon and California.  Kavanaugh noted that the area covered a "huge swath" of forestlands: "For Easterners, imagine driving all the way up and then all the way back down the New Jersey Turnpike, and you will get a rough sense of the scope of the critical habitat designation here."  Trade organization American Forest Resource Council, labor union Carpenters Industrial Council and various lumber producers sued FWS and the Interior Department over the designation. Washington counties also intervened in the case, arguing that they will be harmed by increased regulatory burdens, lost revenue and growing wildfire threats.
FWS initially didn't challenge whether the entities had standing to sue. To show standing, plaintiffs must show that they've sustained or will sustain a concrete injury stemming directly from the action at issue and that that harm is redressable by the courts.  But while the litigation was ongoing, the D.C. Circuit ruled in a separate case, Swanson Group Manufacturing LLC v. Jewell, that some of the same parties lacked standing to challenge a Bureau of Land Management decision on federal timber contracts required by the Oregon and California Railroad and Coos Bay Wagon Road Grant Lands Act of 1937.
Based on that decision, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia last year granted the government's motion to dismiss the spotted owl case.  On appeal, the lumber industry argued that it would suffer because the habitat designation would "clearly" reduce the amount of harvestable timber available.  One company testified in court that it had already suffered a $287,000 loss after the designation blocked three of its timber sales and forced it to purchase more expensive replacement timber on the open market (E&E News PM, Sept. 15, 2016).
The Obama administration, on the other hand, argued that claims of harm were too broad.  The D.C. Circuit ruled that industry had met the standing threshold.  "The decrease in the timber supply is likely to be significant," Kavanaugh wrote. "After all, we are talking about an area roughly twice the size of the state of New Jersey, much of which could previously be harvested for timber but which is now substantially off-limits to logging."  Unlike the district court, the D.C. Circuit found that the decision in Swanson focused on particular allegations that weren't relevant to the challenge to the spotted owl habitat.  Instead, the court relied on an earlier case, the D.C. Circuit's 1996 decision in Mountain States Legal Foundation v. Glickman, which found that firms can sue over government acts that constrict their supply of raw material.  There's a "substantial probability" that the decrease in timber harvest caused by the owl habitat designation is likely to cause timber companies "some economic harm," Kavanaugh wrote for the court.  "Unless the company can fully replace the source of supply at zero additional cost to the company (and by zero, we mean zero), then the company has suffered an economic harm," the judge wrote.  "That is Economics 101 and Standing 101," he said.

4/10/17 Update - 

Is Trump getting ready to put Atlantic oil drilling back in play? 

Trump Preparing Order to Expand Offshore Oil Drilling

The Long And Tortured Road To Reach The North Rodanthe Bridge Option 

Plan Streamlines Re-Nourishment Permitting

Is a 24-bedroom Outer Banks house a single-family dwelling or not? 

Ferry Division April meeting on Tuesday to focus on Hatteras Inlet 

Most in U.S. think flood policy needs a fix
Erika Bolstad, E&E News reporter, April 6, 2017
Most Americans think that when you sell your house, you should have to disclose whether it has ever been flooded.  They also think that construction in flood-prone areas should be required to better withstand the impacts of flooding, according to the findings of a national survey released yesterday by the Pew Charitable Trusts Flood-Prepared Communities project.  The survey demonstrated overwhelming and consistent support for policies to reform how current flood issues are handled, said Lori Weigel, a pollster with Public Opinion Strategies, which conducted the poll for Pew.  It was a rare example of support for a national policy initiative that extends across party lines, Weigel said.  "These are things that people think just intuitively make sense," she said. "That support level ran across party lines; it ran across the country. It was something that just intuitively made sense to the voters that we talked to."  
The poll found that 53 percent of American voters have been affected by flooding of some sort.  Three-quarters of those surveyed support prioritizing federal buyouts of repeatedly flooded homes in environmentally sensitive areas. Roughly the same number of people surveyed said they support policies that would "enable communities and the nation to do more to prepare for and respond to the next floods."  Two out of three American voters support requiring people to pay more for flood insurance if their communities don't make investments to reduce the risk of flood damage. And people in those communities agreed. Of those who live in coastal communities, 86 percent supported building to higher flood standards, Weigel said.
The findings of the survey come as Congress considers the National Flood Insurance Program, which is $23 billion in debt and up for congressional reauthorization this year. Lawmakers have already introduced multiple bills to address problems with the program, run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Among them are proposals requiring communities to better map the locations of repeatedly flooded properties. Many of the bills have bipartisan support.  Those surveyed had a shaky grasp of the NFIP, however. More than eight out of 10 were unaware of whether the program had a deficit or a surplus.
Flood insurance is expected to be a critical part of adapting to climate change. In recent years, catastrophic flooding, often driven by unexpectedly heavy rain events, has swept through many states. Some were tropical systems, like Hurricane Matthew. Many more were big rain events that caught people by surprise in places like Houston and Baton Rouge, La. They overtook communities where few people carried flood insurance, because they were not in floodplains or didn't think they needed it.  Such events are expected to only worsen in the coming years. The 2014 National Climate Assessment predicted that many communities will see such extreme precipitation events more often as global temperatures rise. Because there's more water vapor in the atmosphere caused by higher global and sea temperatures, the intensity of extreme precipitation events is on the rise.
The poll surveyed 1,000 registered U.S. voters across the country. Half were interviewed on a landline telephone and half on a mobile phone. The survey was conducted from March 11 through March 19. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.


4/5/17 Update - 

Bills would ease rules on sandbags, pumping sand from shoals

Pamlico Sound Ferry Runs Soft Aground Near Ocracoke 

Let’s end war with ocean

CoBRA Pilot Project Resurfaces (NEW - Shore Protection Office Newsletter)

Wrightsville Beach takes another step forward on flood map appeal 

Waterway maintenance, property offers among commissioner discussions

Owner of OBX home sues Currituck

Bills to Cut Streams, Shoals Regulations

How Will Offshore Wind Power Get to Grid?

What Hilton Head officials are now saying about restoring the sand dunes

3/31/17 Update - 

Oak Island council approves $3.6-million spending for emergency sand placement

Ocean Isle Beach Dredging Work Ends

Is Atlantic drilling back on the table?

Community effort needed to rebuild Hilton Head sand dunes

Rabon files Sunset Beach deannexation bill 

Speak up for Captain Sam's Spit

Nags Head pushes ahead toward 2018 beach re-nourisment 

Expanded Holden Beach has a 'whole new look'

Dredging along the coast benefits Beaufort Inlet and area beaches 

ORV Corridor Established near Cape Point 

Editorial: Base shoreline rules on science, not politics (Ga) 

House GOP lawmakers aim to reform consultation provision
Corbin Hiar, E&E News reporter, March 29, 2017
In the face of Democratic opposition, House Natural Resources Committee Republicans yesterday took the first step toward updating the Endangered Species Act by targeting the law's consultation requirement.  At issue was a provision of the ESA that requires input from the Fish and Wildlife Service or National Marine Fisheries Service, which jointly implement the law, for projects approved or funded by the federal government that could "jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or threatened species, or result in the destruction or adverse modification of [critical] habitat of such species."  Such consultations are inconsistent, increase process and legal costs, lack certainty, and severely hinder "our nation's ability to provide necessary public services and discourages investment in critical projects needed to boost our economy," said Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairman Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho). "Reform is needed to improve consistency between regions; adherence to timelines; and to hold the employees of the services accountable for completing consultations in an efficient, timely and effective manner."  Republicans invited witnesses from the mining and construction industries as well as a property rights lawyer to discuss the costly delays that they had encountered in their work (E&E Daily, March 27).
But Democrats and Ya-Wei Li, vice president of endangered species conservation at Defenders of Wildlife, sought to highlight the role other legal or regulatory requirements played in complicating the projects elevated by the witnesses.  "Today's hearing is the latest in a series of attempts by the majority to blame bedrock environmental laws for holding up infrastructure projects despite copious amounts of evidence to the contrary," said ranking member Donald McEachin (D-Va.).  Li co-authored a comprehensive peer-reviewed study of consultations during the Obama administration that was cited by lawmakers on both sides of the dais. It found that consultations hadn't blocked or significantly altered any development projects during the Obama administration (E&E News PM, Dec. 14, 2015).  The conservation group executive argued that the study also showed consultations rarely exceeded the 135-day window allowed for such project reviews. The median duration of informal consultations, he noted, was 13 days and formal consultations was 62 days.
Republicans, however, pointed out that those figures didn't include sometimes lengthy pre-consultation efforts that agencies undertake or the protracted litigation that may result if environmental groups oppose the outcome.  Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop, the chairman of the full committee, vowed to continue examining the issue as lawmakers consider reforms to the ESA, which hasn't been significantly amended in three decades.  "One of the issues I want to address this year is really talking about what consultation is," he said at the end of the 90-minute hearing. "This is something that needs a clear definition so we can actually find out when that clock needs to start ticking and who actually gets to consult and in what manner those consultations need to be addressed and considered by the federal agencies."  
There are efforts underway in both chambers to update the law.  Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) presided over an ESA reform hearing that was both broader in focus and friendlier in tone.  Nevertheless, early signs from the Senate suggest that an overhaul will be difficult to get through the upper chamber (E&E Daily, Feb. 16). At the same time, lawmakers are also pushing a series of piecemeal ESA reform bills.  For example, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) reintroduced the "State, Tribal and Local Species Transparency and Recovery Act" earlier this week with the support of Barrasso and Republican Sens. Dean Heller of Nevada and Pat Roberts of Kansas.  The bill, S. 735, would require disclosure to states of the basis of determinations under such law and require the use of data provided by state, tribal and county governments in the decision-making process.

Council approves dune-repair contract 

New Hyde County digital flood maps to be available at public meetings 

Public hearing scheduled on moving sand to Capt. Sam's project on Kiawah Island 

Emergency federal beach renourishment funding could still come to Myrtle Beach 

Shore Protection Act tabled after it stalls in Senate (Ga.) 

Listen to science about shoreline protection (SC)

3/26/17 Update - 

One of Hunting Island’s last cabins will remain ... for now (SC)

PUBLIC NOTICE - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Charleston District is currently involved in the planning phase of a beach emergency repair in the Grand Strand (Myrtle Beach) of Horry County, South Carolina. 

Carteret County Beach Commission Meeting Agenda
March 27, 2017; Pine Knoll Shores Town Hall, 2 pm 

Norfolk Prepares For Battle With Rising Sea Level

Freeman Park zones set to close this spring due to dredging 

Bumblebee listing buzzes by Trump reg freeze
Corbin Hiar, E&E News reporter, March 21, 2017
The Fish and Wildlife Service today quietly added a wide-ranging insect to the endangered species list.  The rusty patched bumblebee listing was finalized in early January, but it was prevented from taking effect by a 60-day freeze on new regulations that President Trump imposed on his first day in office (E&E Daily, Jan. 23).  That executive order pushed back the effective date of the listing until today, FWS announced in a Federal Register notice Feb. 10 — the day the bee was originally supposed to receive Endangered Species Act protections.  No additional announcements were made about the listing today by the Trump administration.
Pesticides, habitat loss, climate change and disease spread from commercial honeybee colonies have put the species on the brink of extinction, according to FWS. The rusty patched bee lives in scattered populations in 12 states and one Canadian province, covering just 8 percent of its historical range.  Now the pollinator is the first federally protected bee in the continental United States. The rusty patched bee's endangered status makes it a crime to knowingly harass or kill the insect, which as of 20 years ago could be found in 28 Eastern and Midwestern states and Washington, D.C.
The agriculture, energy, timber, and commercial and residential development industries have long feared the economic impacts of protections for the bee (Greenwire, Sept. 18, 2015).  FWS didn't calculate those costs when it proposed listing the species last year but said they would be estimated when the agency issues a recovery plan for the bee (Greenwire, Sept. 22, 2016).  Those costs — which could be substantial — are likely to count toward a separate executive order calling for agencies to prevent adding new regulatory burdens in fiscal 2017.  The order may also require FWS or its parent agency, the Interior Department, to repeal at least two existing regulations to offset the listing rule (Greenwire, Feb. 2).
Interior didn't directly respond to a question about the implications of the deregulatory executive order but said the regulatory freeze order probably didn't significantly harm the bee.  "Fish and Wildlife Service scientists have noted that the brief delay is not expected to have an impact on the conservation of the species since FWS is still developing a recovery plan to guide efforts to bring this species back to what they believe is a healthy and secure condition," spokeswoman Heather Swift said in a statement. "The Department will work with stakeholders to ensure collaborative conservation among landowners, farmers, industry, and developers in the areas where the species is native."  Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, which along with the Natural Resources Defense Council sued FWS in 2014 to speed consideration of protections for the bee, celebrated the long-awaited listing rule taking effect.  "We are thrilled to see one of North America's most endangered species receive the protection it needs," said Sarina Jepsen, director of endangered species at the Xerces Society. "Now that the Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the rusty patched bumblebee as endangered, it stands a chance of surviving the many threats it faces — from the use of neonicotinoid pesticides to diseases."  The only other bees protected by FWS are seven species found only in Hawaii, which were declared endangered last year (Greenwire, Sept. 29, 2016).

Flood maps put downtown housing program on hold 

FEMA's updated flood map for Charleston County shows a smaller high-risk flood zone 

Senator Tillis, state senators promise an investment in our coast

Developer seeks state permit for Capt. Sam's Spit beach restoration on Kiawah Island 

New permit program in place for ORV users at Cape Lookout National Seashore 

PUBLIC NOTICE - The Wilmington District, Corps of Engineers (Corps) received an application from the United States Coast Guard seeking Department of the Army authorization to modify an existing authorization in order to conduct new dredging within the existing mooring basin, associated with the US Coast Guard Sector Field Office at Fort Macon, in Carteret County, North Carolina.

Oak Island weighs beach funding options

Legislation would allow half-cent tax on prepared meals to support beach, waterfront needs

Listen to science about shoreline protection 

Park Service Invites Public to Weigh In on Plan 

Federal regulation could impact coastal beaches

A Threat by Any Other Name

A Primer on the Buxton Beach Nourishment Project 

NPS initiates program for ORV users 

North Myrtle Beach gets $10 million to repair damaged beachfront 

Avangrid Renewables wins bid for Kitty Hawk offshore wind farm lease 

Operator of Pasquotank wind farm wins offshore lease bidding 

Kitty Hawk wind farm lease awarded to Avangrid Renewables

Bill would allow for more oil and gas lease sales
Emily Yehle, E&E News reporter, March 17, 2017
The Interior Department would be able to add oil and gas lease sales to its existing five-year plan under a new bill from Louisiana senators.  Sens. Bill Cassidy (R) and John Kennedy (R) joined North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis (R) in introducing the "Unleashing American Energy Act." S. 665 would hand Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke a shortcut to change a leasing plan that took years for the Obama administration to finalize.  The current plan does not include Arctic and Atlantic leases, limiting new sales to the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska's Cook Inlet until 2022 (Greenwire, Nov. 18, 2016). Under the new bill, Zinke could reverse that, according to the senators.  "The restrictions that have been placed on our energy sector from the previous administration have stunted our economy and cost us thousands of good paying jobs," Kennedy said in a statement. "This bill will provide more job opportunities for hardworking Americans and will help our country realize our goal of energy independence."  The bill would not reverse withdrawals President Obama made under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. Those withdrawals — comprising most Arctic waters and some areas in the Atlantic Ocean — were made under an obscure provision in an attempt to permanently remove them from oil and gas leasing (E&E News PM, Dec. 20, 2016).

Cuts could complicate flood insurance reauthorization
Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News reporter, March 17, 2017
House lawmakers yesterday grappled with how proposed spending cuts to flood mapping might affect their reauthorization of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's National Flood Insurance Program.  The Trump administration is pushing to zero out discretionary funding for the flood hazard mapping program as part of its "skinny budget" released yesterday.  The White House justified the $190 million reduction by arguing that government services should not be "subsidized by taxpayers who do not directly benefit" from the program.  The budget request would also cut funding for the Army Corps of Engineers by $1 billion. The proposal did not specify whether those cuts would affect the agency's flood control programs.  "It is extremely disappointing to see the president's budget would eliminate discretionary funding for mapping," Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), ranking member of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance, said during a hearing.  "If anything," said Cleaver, "we should be increasing the budget for that."  Chad Berginnis, executive director of the Association of State Floodplain Managers, agreed, saying the cuts would be "devastating" to the program.  "Mapping is the cornerstone of everything else NFIP does," he said. "It impacts mitigation, land use, insurance, everything."  Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) asked Berginnis whether the cut would hurt NFIP and private insurers' "ability to properly assess risk and discourage building where it is particularly dangerous."  Berginnis replied: "It would degrade that capability significantly. That degradation will increase over time as the maps get older."  The Trump administration proposal comes as Congress races to reauthorize NFIP, which expires in September. Lawmakers have already introduced a number of bills to reform the program.  One of them would require communities to better map the locations of repeatedly flooded properties. Another would require the Government Accountability Office to ensure NFIP uses accurate mapping. Those bills have bipartisan backing.
More private insurance
Currently, federal spending and NFIP fees help pay for mapping efforts. Federal policy fees also help pay for flood mitigation and technical assistance programs.  During the hearing, Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) expressed concern that allowing further privatization of the flood insurance market would reduce funds for mapping and other services. Private companies do not contribute.  She asked, "If we see private insurers take market shares from NFIP and then the proposed budget cuts to FEMA materialize, what will happen to mapping in this scenario?"  Evan Hecht, CEO of a company called the Flood Insurance Agency, said he would support private insurers instituting a similar fee on their policies to help support mapping.  "We are going to use independent mapping but also have to use your mapping, so I am a big supporter of our participation in your effort," he said.  Republican members of the panel argued that private companies would be a boon to the insurance market. Further privatization is a key point of contention in the NFIP reauthorization talks.  Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), who is sponsoring a bill to increase privatization, said he thought the legislation "would help consumers and show that this Congress wants a flood insurance market that is affordable and accessible to all consumers."  Hecht tried to quell concerns from lawmakers that allowing more privatization in the flood insurance market would lead to increased rates.  He argued that most of the 18,500 policies his company has taken on would be subsidized under FEMA, thereby saving NFIP money.  "While it is understandable that some might believe the private market would only want to write FEMA's best risks and leave all the poor risks to NFIP, almost exactly the opposite is taking place," he said.  Rep. Dave Trott (R-Mich.) told Hecht that his comments "give me confidence that the private sector can fill the void."  But Hecht qualified his words, saying severe repetitive loss properties, which account for 2 percent of NFIP policies but 24 percent of claims, could not receive competitive rates on the private market. "Of course we would not want to write severe repetitive loss properties at rates that are competitive with FEMA because FEMA charges much too little for those properties," he said. "The rate of those properties have to be coincident with risk."

Corps OKs Ocean Isle’s Terminal Groin Plan

Dredge work awaits signed Hatteras Inlet agreement 

Interior set to auction N.C.'s first offshore wind farm
Daniel Cusick, E&E News reporter, March 15, 2017
The Trump administration will broker its first offshore wind energy deal this week as the Interior Department auctions development rights to 122,400 acres of the Atlantic Ocean near North Carolina's Outer Banks.  The Kitty Hawk Wind Energy Area, covering 191 square miles of outer continental shelf roughly 24 miles from the beaches where the Wright brothers achieved first powered flight in 1903, has an opening bid price of $244,810, or $2 per acre.  For a business-minded administration committed to an "America first" energy policy, the sale could come as a welcome exercise in government-supported free-market competition. As many as a half-dozen firms are expected to participate in the auction, including some of the world's largest energy firms.  "While it appears President Trump's energy policy is still being worked out, his ambitious economic and job-growth agenda would undoubtedly be strengthened by a robust all-of-the-above energy approach, which would include a strong U.S. offshore wind program," Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, said in a statement. "This is clearly a growing market, which should only grow stronger as technology and infrastructure develops."
Wind energy areas in N.C.
Evidence of offshore wind's promise can be found in the most recent lease sale held by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for a 79,000-acre parcel off New York's coast. Statoil ASA, the Norwegian energy conglomerate, paid a record $42.5 million, or $535 per acre, for rights to explore and possibly develop the New York lease area (Energywire, Dec. 19, 2016).  But it remains unclear whether the Kitty Hawk site, which has been studied for nearly a decade, will draw similarly strong interest.  Key questions facing the site involve the economic viability of offshore wind power in a market like the Carolinas, where coal, gas and nuclear power remain cost-competitive and renewables account for just a small fraction of total generation.  Three of the initial nine companies that qualified to bid in the auction have since pulled out, including Shell WindEnergy Inc. of Houston, Apex Clean Energy of Virginia and Toronto-based Northland Power Inc.  "There are excellent winds off the North Carolina coast and lots of shallow water that extends way offshore," said Catherine Bowes, director of the National Wildlife Foundation's Atlantic Offshore Wind Campaign. "What North Carolina doesn't have is a viable state market for selling offshore wind power, at least for now.  "But that's almost certain to change," Bowes added, "and smart businesses know how to get in on the ground floor and wait for that market to develop."
Trump officials remain noncommittal
There is also uncertainty about the Trump administration's disposition toward wind power, which the president himself has derided as an unsightly, bird-killing technology, even as wind has solidified its place as the nation's leading source of commercial-scale, emissions-free electricity.  Since taking office, Trump and his surrogates have said little about where federal renewable energy policy is headed.  Wind power advocates have touted the industry's meteoric growth over the past decade and the sizable economic benefits wind farms bring to rural America through land leases and tax revenue. Others were heartened by Trump's selection of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry as secretary of Energy, noting Perry's long experience with conventional wind energy in Texas.  But offshore technology is new to the United States and only recently began to establish its footing along the U.S. Atlantic Coast. The nation's first offshore wind farm began operating at Block Island, R.I., late last year, while several other large projects are still in the development phase, notably the 1,000-megawatt Bay State Wind project off Cape Cod in Massachusetts.  Federal officials, including the head of BOEM, declined to be interviewed about the Trump administration's position on offshore wind power.  In written responses to E&E questions, BOEM acting Director Walter Cruickshank said the agency "expects to be busy in both our oil and gas and our renewable energy programs." But he added that until the Interior Department's new leadership team has settled in, "we won't speculate on how [Trump administration] policy goals will translate into specific actions in BOEM."  A spokeswoman for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who took office March 2, was also careful not to commit the administration to renewable energy, either onshore or offshore.  "Secretary Zinke and President Trump are committed to creating public lands jobs that provide affordable and reliable energy for America," the spokeswoman, Heather Swift, said in an email. "The administration supports a comprehensive energy solution, and renewable energy will play a role so long as that energy is affordable and reliable."  But if there's uncertainty at the top levels of the Trump administration, it hasn't dampened enthusiasm among the companies that are vying for U.S. offshore leases.
Among the firms expected to bid in tomorrow's lease sale are Statoil Wind U.S. LLC; Avangrid Renewables, the U.S. subsidiary of Spanish energy conglomerate Iberdrola SA; Enbridge Holdings (Green Energy) LLC, the renewable energy division of the Canadian pipeline company; and PNE Wind USA, a subsidiary of Germany's PNE Wind AG.  Last week, Statoil and PNE Wind also asked BOEM to open an additional 440,000 acres of wind energy areas off the Massachusetts and New York coasts, where officials estimate the continental shelf could support as much as 4 gigawatts of turbines.  BOEM said the two companies' unsolicited applications were sufficient to initiate a new competitive lease process, which could draw even more developers into the Northeast offshore wind market.

Senators debate paths to privatization
Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News reporter, March 15, 2017
Senators explored how to best expand privatization in the flood insurance market during a Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing yesterday.  The National Flood Insurance Program is up for reauthorization in September, and some congressional Republicans have been pushing to expand the private sector's abilities to provide insurance as a way to lessen the burden on the federal program, which is $24.6 billion in debt.   Testifying before the committee, Federal Emergency Management Agency Deputy Associate Administrator Roy Wright said he thought Congress should set aside portions of the housing market, like new construction, for private insurers.
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) cautioned against that strategy. "You may be working at odds against yourself if you let new construction be outside the program because you will only be taking on older homes," he said.  Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who last week introduced a bill to accelerate development of the private flood insurance market, also questioned whether the strategy could "put NFIP at a greater risk situation" with private insurers taking up lower-risk new construction.  
But Wright argued that he would rather cede a broad space for private companies to have as their own rather than allow them to cherry-pick which of NFIP's current policies they want to take over.  "If we are going to give some space, let's give it on the new side," he said. "What I don't want them doing is arbitrarily combing through the book and leaving us as the insurer of last resort, because at that point, I am convinced we would require infusions of cash every single year."  Wright added that, at the end of the day, the priority should be that people living in flood zones are insured, regardless of whether their policies are with NFIP or private companies.  "From a public policy perspective, the more people insured, the better," he said.  Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) suggested the program should let private companies take over insuring second homes instead of having taxpayers help foot the bill.  "If you can afford a million-dollar beach estate in Nantucket, you don't need the downtrodden to support you," he said.  Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) asked Wright about the possibility of simply requiring private insurers to include flood damage in home policies, which could create a risk pool broad enough for companies to make money, potentially eliminating the need for the NFIP.
But Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said she was concerned that ceding too much of the market to private insurers would affect NFIP's ability to also work on mitigation efforts and other aspects of the policy's "core mission."  "We have got to make sure we are still maintaining these other resources," she said. "Someone has to pay for funding mapping and flood-plain management. Over time, letting private plans crowd out federal plans and skip out on that bill could destroy that funding."  Wright agreed, saying he wanted to make sure private companies entered the market in a way that provides "mutual gain."  "If that happens, all of us are better off," he said. "If their gain simply comes with culling and reducing my policy base, that is the point in which our income goes down."  Wright also urged senators to make flood insurance rates reflect the risk, saying that "the solvency of the program depends on it."  He said, "Given concerns related to affordability, it may take some time, but the program needs to be on a course to eventually arrive at full risk rates for all policyholders."

Virginia Beach may fund Croatan beach replenishment

NTB expecting to earn more than $620,000 from property auction

Nags Head commissioner appointed to head N.C. Coastal Resources Commission

New Hanover Resident Steps Down As Chair Of Coastal Resources Commission

Coastal Commission Chair Gorham Resigns

Charleston County residents could be affected by new flood maps

Lawmakers grapple with $24.6B debt (NFIP)
Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News reporter, March 10, 2017
Congressional mandates are keeping the National Flood Insurance Program from paying off its debt, its head told a House subcommittee yesterday.  Roy Wright, Federal Emergency Management Agency deputy associate administrator, said he did not know how the program could repay the $24.6 billion it owes the Treasury under current conditions.  "I don't have the ability to do so," he told the Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance.
Wright blamed Congress requiring the flood program to subsidize insurance for low-income residents living in flood plains.  "There is not a practical way for us to repay this debt based on the discounts and subsidies that I have been directed to give under the National Flood Insurance Act," he said.  Repayment "would require an exponential" increase in policy premiums, Wright told subcommittee Chairman Sean Duffy (R-Wis.).  A number of major weather events, like Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, as well as major flooding events this year in North Carolina and Louisiana, have contributed to the program's debt, Wright said.  But he rebuffed accusations from Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) that "FEMA did a poor job of accounting for risk."  "We are collecting the premiums allowable under statute," Wright said. "Eighty percent of my book is actuarially sound, the other 20 percent is based on statute."  The hearing yesterday came as Congress begins the reauthorization process for the NFIP, which will expire at the end of September.  Duffy was among several lawmakers who argued that keeping NFIP policies "accessible and affordable" is one of lawmakers' top priorities. But they disagree on how to do that.
Partisan divide
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), ranking member on Financial Services, said she believes Congress should forgive the program's debt.  "There is no way you could plan to pay this debt by raising the premiums or doing something else," she said.  Duffy and other conservatives on the panel, however, expressed interest in allowing private insurers into the flood insurance market as a way to lessen its burden.  Wright suggested that Congress could set aside portions of the housing market, like new construction, for private insurers.  "Give us an opportunity to create dedicated space to let the markets take hold, take root and flourish," he said.  But Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) argued that private insurance would likely offer more expensive rates than the NFIP and that requiring new construction to go private could inhibit growth.
'Draw the line'
Lawmakers also asked Wright how to best tackle properties that flood repeatedly. Those represent about 1 percent of total policies but add up to 25 to 30 percent of the claims and about $12 billion of the program's debt.  Wright suggested that Congress limit how many times a property can flood, or how much money it could receive from the NFIP, while still receiving subsidized insurance rates.  "There is a point by which we've got to draw a line that says if you exceed 150 or 200 percent of your policy limit that at least we need to take the subsidies and grandfathering away from you and you pay the actual face value premium or we tell you to get on the private market," he said.  But, Wright acknowledged, some properties that flood repeatedly are "in places where the homeowners are of less means" and could not afford such policies.
Lawmakers have introduced a flurry of NFIP bills in recent days. Sens. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) introduced S. 563 to accelerate the development of a private flood insurance market. Reps. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) and Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) introduced a companion, H.R. 1422, in the House.  Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) introduced H.R. 1423 to improve oversight over the NFIP's "Write Your Own" program, which allows insurance companies to service standard flood insurance policies in their own names.  The bills join an ever-growing list of flood insurance legislation already introduced that may eventually be incorporated into a final reauthorization (E&E Daily, March 8).

Upcoming Buxton Beach Nourishment Project Outlined in Detail at Public Meeting 

Southern Shores Council OKs beach nourishment 

N.C. looking for new fisheries director
NCDEQ Press Release - 

More people are driving on Hatteras beaches while record number of sea turtle nests are found 

DHEC board spurns staff, allows use of controversial seawalls 

One Stop Carteret County Dredging & Beach Nourishment Update - Spring 2017

Bald Head Island Seeks to Mine Shoals Sand

Southern Shores OK’s nourishment project for later this year

Even outside flood zones, insurance now a must
Erika Bolstad, E&E News reporter, March 8, 2017
NEW ORLEANS — To understand how ill-prepared for flooding most Americans are, and how vast the flood insurance problem is in the United States, take a look at South Carolina, the state's insurance commissioner told a panel yesterday.  In October of 2015, South Carolina weathered such a downpour that rainfall could be measured in some places by the foot. It was a record-breaking amount of water that drenched the middle part of the state, a swath of South Carolina not only unaccustomed to such deluges, but also mostly outside flood zones.  Then came Hurricane Matthew a year later, said Ray Farmer, the state's insurance commissioner.  "If you look at South Carolina, my position is our entire state's in a flood zone," Farmer told a panel at the annual RES/CON Global Resilience Summit here. "Everyone, unless you're living on top of a rock, everyone needs to have flood insurance."
Over the past several years, catastrophic floods, often driven by heavy rain events, have swept through many states. Some were tropical systems, like Hurricane Matthew. Many more, though, were big rain events that caught people by surprise — in Houston; Baton Rouge, La.; West Virginia; South Carolina; and beyond. They swamped places where few people carried flood insurance, because they did not think they needed it.  With rising global temperatures, the 2014 National Climate Assessment predicts that many communities will see such extreme precipitation events more frequently. Climate scientists know that the intensity of extreme precipitation events is on the rise because there's more water vapor in the atmosphere caused by higher global and sea temperatures.
Such storms have also exposed one of the greatest weaknesses in the National Flood Insurance Program, known as NFIP: People often don't have insurance outside high-risk flood areas because local governments have successfully petitioned to have the rates lowered by proving they've invested in levees or other defenses.  "The most gut-wrenching part of it is person after person after person would come up and say, 'I have no coverage at all. I lost my home. What do I do now?'" Farmer said.  Many panelists also worried about some of the incentives in NFIP, which is $23 billion in debt and up for congressional reauthorization this year.
Many communities successfully protest their flood zone ratings to help homeowners lower their rates. When they do so, it also allows many homeowners to exit the program, said Ned Dolese, who started a private flood insurance company, Coastal American Insurance Co., after growing frustrated with the cost of insurance after Hurricane Katrina. Coastal offers flood insurance as a policy on top of a regular homeowners insurance policy, and it is working to enter additional state markets.  "Are we cannibalizing the program because a community can then say, 'I no longer want to be in the flood zone?'" Dolese asked. "Where we're sitting today, a lot of this area that flooded during Katrina is no longer a flood zone. That's a political process. That has no basis in science or actuarial science or anything else. It's politically driven."
Few panelists addressed climate change outright. Instead, they focused on the more sweeping topic of the conference: how to build greater resilience in communities.  That should start by preparing before the water rises, said Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), whose district includes the areas flooded in Baton Rouge. Local officials have a responsibility to adequately assess their vulnerability, he said. "We've got to flip this whole paradigm over," Graves said. "There is a responsibility of local governments ... to make sure that your building codes and that your zoning ordinances are really compatible with the areas that these people are moving to. To make sure that you're not, as a county official, as a parish official, as a city official or as a state official, that you're not actually creating more liability by building roads to areas that are vulnerable."

Bipartisan flood insurance bill linked to rising seas
Hannah Hess, E&E News reporter, March 8, 2017
Bipartisan flood insurance legislation from two Florida congressmen would extend rate caps to the owners of second homes and rental properties, in the latest bid to address the challenge of sea-level rise.  Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Republican who represents the Keys, partnered with Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist yesterday to introduce legislation to reform the National Flood Insurance Program. Congress is working toward reauthorizing the program, which would otherwise expire in September (E&E Daily, March 6).  Crist said his panhandle-based district, which he called a peninsula on a peninsula, "is ground zero for climate change and the impact of rising sea levels and storm surge."  "In the face of these threats," Crist said, "it is more important than ever to work across the aisle to keep flood insurance affordable for Floridians protecting their homes and businesses."
Raising awareness about the repercussions of rising seas presents unique challenges, said a recently published paper in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Climate Science.  The initial focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions may have prevented action — and public communication — on how to respond to the effects of climate change, including sea-level rise, said co-authors Karen Akerlof, Michelle Covi and Elizabeth Rohring.  Public opinion polls rank sea-level rise as a lesser concern than other global warming impacts, even in some of the most affected parts of the world, they note.
Curbelo is co-chairman of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, a group he launched last year with fellow South Florida Rep. Ted Deutch (D) to educate members on economically viable options to reduce climate risk and to explore mitigation and adaptation. Crist joined the caucus last month (Greenwire, Feb. 9).  "Across the country, rental properties like those affected by this bill not only serve as primary income for many landlords but also provide reasonably priced housing for the workforce in our coastal communities," Curbelo said yesterday.  Though his statement on the bill did not refer to climate, Curbelo has spoken out recently about the impact sea-level rise is having on roads and infrastructure in his low-lying district.  "The 2015 king tides led to flooding that lasted more than three weeks in several neighborhoods, causing damage to homes and businesses, and leaving my constituents unable to move freely to and from their homes," Curbelo said in a recent speech on the House floor that commended local planning efforts.
Curbelo advocated for federal transportation infrastructure research grants to "help ensure we have the best engineering at our disposal" and mitigation policies.  With President Trump pushing to work with Congress on infrastructure, Curbelo has urged for funding to address sea-level rise to be part of the package.  Curbelo said after Trump's recent address to Congress that infrastructure could provide a lot of opportunity for lawmakers on Capitol Hill who are concerned about climate impacts (E&E Daily, March 1).

Coastal scientists draw a line in the sand after new Shore Protection Act passes House

South Carolina groups sue to protect Endangered Species Act

100 homes have been raised above Dare County flood areas in last 20 years

Trump action on water regulation garners praise, concern along N.C. coast 

Legislators Eye Beach Sand Funding, Rules 

Beach committee continues review of how best to pay for long-term shore protection

Some Virginia barrier islands are shrinking by the day: "You can just feel it"

Ocean Isle Beach has all permits for terminal groin 

Oak Island seeking bids to place 156,000 yards of sand on areas of eroded beachfront

Trump Orders ‘Waters of the United States’ Rule Changed

NC must act now to avoid a disaster as sea levels rise

Work Continues on Rich Inlet Biological Study

North Topsail leaders to finalize decision on contract for hardened structure project 

Few Weeks Left In Holden Beach Renourishment Program

Bill offers new definition of sand dunes in Georgia 

Yale Climate Opinion Maps – U.S. 2016

'Deadline' lawsuits largely determined FWS's focus — GAO
Emily Yehle, E&E News reporter, 2/28/17
The Fish and Wildlife Service faced 122 "deadline" lawsuits between 2005 and 2015, prompting the agency to negotiate settlements that largely dictated which species were considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.  The GAO report is an overview of so-called Section 4 deadline lawsuits. Under the Endangered Species Act, outside groups can sue FWS or the National Marine Fisheries Service for not meeting statutory deadlines for listing petitions.  Republicans have long criticized the process, sometimes saying it allows environmental groups to force species listing. The GAO report does not support that contention, concluding that settlement agreements "did not affect the substantive basis or procedural rule-making requirements" under ESA.
But the settlements did eat up resources.  "For fiscal years 2005 through 2015, FWS officials said they have focused much of their Section 4 program on completing actions required under settlement agreements and court orders," GAO analysts wrote, adding that a multispecies settlement in 2011 made that focus particularly evident. "To fulfill its commitments under these agreements, FWS's efforts related to listing have required the use of substantially all of its petition and listing budgetary resources, according to FWS documents."  ESA sets a firm deadline of 90 days for FWS and NMFS to review petitions for changing, adding or removing animals and plants from the endangered and threatened species lists. If the agencies find a petition presented "substantial" information in support of action, they then have 12 months to determine whether the move is warranted.  The result is that FWS and NMFS usually settle deadline lawsuits, because they can't dispute that they missed a required deadline.
Between fiscal 2005 and 2015, plaintiffs filed 141 deadline suits against FWS and NMFS, involving 1,441 species. More than half the lawsuits came from two groups: the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians.
CBD pointed out that the report shows that the number of lawsuits filed has declined since 2011, when FWS agreed to consider listing more than 250 species over five years. The group also emphasized that some imperiled species wait years for protection.  "Lawsuits have targeted species that in many cases have been waiting decades for protection and ensured they at least get a decision about that protection," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at CBD. "The Fish and Wildlife Service, however, has still largely determined the priorities for which species get protection, and in no cases have settlements determined the outcome of decisions or cut industry or states out of the process. This is clear from the GAO’s report."  The agencies negotiated settlements for 72 percent of the lawsuits, while 22 percent were dismissed voluntarily because actions were completed.  Only nine lawsuits — all involving FWS — were resolved by court order, according to the report. The court dismissed six of them.
House Natural Resources ranking member Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who requested the report, said today that the report confirmed that such lawsuits "do not force the government to list species."  "Now it should be clear to everyone that the GOP 'sue and settle' conspiracy theory belongs in the garbage along with its claims of global cooling and massive voter fraud," he said. "Instead of targeting American citizens and the conservation groups that help them hold the government accountable for breaking the law, congressional Republicans should adequately fund species conservation efforts so that agencies can actually meet statutory deadlines." 
But Republicans saw the report differently.  "Litigation is driving ESA decisions and taxpayers are paying millions in attorney's fees to the groups that sue the government on those cases," Parish Braden, spokesman for the Natural Resources Committee, said in an email.  Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) has said the ESA should be repealed and replaced, and Braden reiterated today that ESA was a "broken" policy. He also criticized Grijalva for serving on the advisory board of CBD's Climate Law Institute. The institute aims to wage "legal and public-pressure campaigns" to prevent extinction amid global warming.

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Oak Island and other coastal communities work to restore beaches

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Mason Inlet catching more boaters

Oak Island closes street to accommodate Publix; pursues tax to prepared meals

Numbers against offshore oil 

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Oak Island seeks prepared meals tax (for nourishment)

Acting Ferry Division director urges islanders to support passenger ferry and the Dredge Report 

Challenge to DeBordieu seawall starts over (SC) 

‘Last standing’ no more, Hunting Island’s Little Blue torn down

Creating ‘Virtual Storms’ To Help Design Coastal Defenses

Updates on Upcoming Inlet Dredging Presented at Waterways Commission Meeting 

Hilton Head Island looking at changes to the beach management plan

Cape Hatteras National Seashore has opened the Cape Point Bypass Road extension to the public. 

Want to help rebuild Hunting Island? You might have the chance soon

Rep. Iler updates transportation group on highway funding and projects, ports spending 

GOP senators reintroduce bills cracking down on lawsuits, wolf policy
Corbin Hiar, E&E News reporter, February 16, 2017
Republican senators are supporting a series of bills that would make it harder for the Fish and Wildlife Service to resolve Endangered Species Act lawsuits and would force the agency to provide more information on proposed protections for Mexican wolves.  Two of the three ESA bills introduced Tuesday were from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the majority whip.  The "Endangered Species Act Settlement Reform Act," S. 375, would require the Interior Department to provide public notification of when ESA suits, often from environmental groups, are filed and would set a lower standard for when outside groups, such as interested businesses, can intervene.  Introduced by Cornyn in both 2013 and 2015, the legislation also seeks to require judges to obtain the consent of affected local governments before approving settlements and would block litigants from obtaining legal payments.
"By giving states, counties, and local landowners a seat at the table, this bill will bring some much-needed transparency to the ESA settlement process," the majority whip said in a news release. "This will ensure Washington bureaucrats can't run roughshod over Texas landowners and job creators."  Cornyn also reintroduced the "21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act," S. 376, which would require the secretaries of the Interior and Commerce, who jointly implement the ESA, to publish any scientific and commercial data online that are used for adding or removing animals and plants from the endangered or threatened species lists. But the bill would also prohibit the posting of landowners' "personal information."
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) resurrected the "Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Plan Act" as well.
The bill, S. 368, seeks to shape the forthcoming update to the species's three-decade-old recovery plan.
The revision is required by December as a condition of a settlement the Obama administration struck last year with conservation groups and some states to resolve a series of lawsuits related to the recovery program for the wolf subspecies, one of the most endangered mammals in North America (Greenwire, April 27, 2016).
Flake's legislation would require FWS to set "an enforceable maximum population of the Mexican gray wolf" within a range below the current boundary line of Interstate 40 that is acceptable to ranchers, landowners, recreation interests and county governments in Arizona and New Mexico — the only two states in which the wolf is currently found.  Regulators would be require to describe "acceptable and unacceptable impacts on wild game, livestock and recreation" in those states. It also would set a process for state wildlife officials to assume authority of the recovery effort if they find FWS is in noncompliance with the revised recovery plan and would make them eligible for federal grant funding.  "The federal government's outdated management of Mexican gray wolf populations is harming ranchers and our state's rural communities," said Flake, who is up for re-election in 2018. "This bill will ease the burdens on rural Arizonans by enhancing local stakeholder participation and state involvement in the recovery process."  The sole co-sponsor of the bill last session was Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was re-elected in 2016. He hasn't signed up to support the most recent package.

Wilmington Chamber Pushing For State Beach Fund

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Shifting currents for proposed wind farms off N.C. coast 

State coastal agency gathers local feedback following Hurricane Matthew 

Barrasso hopes to sell Democrats on reforms (Endangered Species)
Corbin Hiar, E&E News reporter, February 13, 2017
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee this week will take a fresh look at reforming the Endangered Species Act — a long-held Republican priority that may now be possible with the party's unified control of Congress and the White House.  But to get any ESA reform bill past a Senate filibuster, Republicans will need to secure at least eight Democratic votes.  In a sign of the seriousness with which EPW Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) is approaching that endeavor, the majority of planned witnesses for this week's hearing have Democratic ties.  Lawmakers will hear from Fish and Wildlife Service directors who led the agency during the Clinton and Obama administrations, a former Democratic governor of Wyoming, the president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, and the executive director of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. "The witnesses highlight the fact that the ESA is an issue that presents challenges across the political spectrum — not just for Republicans — and throughout the United States," a committee source said in an email.  Not all of the witnesses are likely to offer full-throated support for reform. Defenders of Wildlife CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark, who was President Clinton's FWS director, has been critical of past attempts to tweak the law by making it less protective of species or their habitats.
But the viewpoints of other guests are less clear. For example, Dan Ashe, CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, said while serving as President Obama's FWS director that "I do believe that the Endangered Species Act should be reauthorized, and I think there could be room for improvement of the law" (E&E Daily, May 7, 2015).  The Obama administration, however, went on to push a series of ESA regulatory reforms and explicitly closed the door on supporting any statutory changes (Greenwire, May 18, 2015).  "We hope that the hearing will initiate a serious and thoughtful discussion regarding the challenges with the ESA and potential opportunities to modernize the statute," the committee source said. "We need to make this Act work more efficiently towards achieving its basic conservation purpose."  Barrasso, long a critic of the law, has made overhauling the ESA one of his top legislative priorities (Greenwire, Jan. 17).
The Western Governors Association has also called for an update. The bipartisan group released a policy blueprint for such an effort last year and is currently at work on specific legislative proposals (Greenwire, Dec. 15, 2016).  House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah), on the other hand, has said the law should be repealed and replaced.  "I'm not sure if there's a way of actually reforming the Endangered Species Act or if you simply have to start over again," he told E&E News last year (E&E Daily, Dec. 9, 2016).  Enacted in 1973, the law currently protects more than 1,600 U.S. species, but critics note that it has only led to the recovery of 47 animals or plants. It has been nearly 30 years since the ESA was last amended.  Schedule: The hearing is Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 10 a.m. in 406 Dirksen.
Witnesses: Former Wyoming Gov. David Freudenthal (D); Jamie Rappaport Clark, CEO of Defenders of Wildlife; Dan Ashe, CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums; James Holte, president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation; and Gordon Myers, executive director of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and president of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

There have never been this many beach-expansion projects on the Outer Banks, and experts don't know why 

CRC: Let’s talk flood maps

Court lets agencies pause critical habitat litigation
Emily Yehle, E&E News reporter, February 10, 2017
A federal judge has granted a two-month delay in litigation over critical habitat rules, allowing the Trump administration to get up to speed on the issue.  More than a dozen states filed the lawsuit in November, challenging a series of controversial updates to rules under the Endangered Species Act (Greenwire, Nov. 30, 2016). The states assert that the changes allow federal agencies to designate "entire states" as habitat for imperiled species.  The Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service filed an unopposed motion yesterday asking for a stay in the proceedings. Judge Katherine Nelson of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama granted the motion today.  "A 60-day stay of proceedings will allow Defendants time to brief incoming administration officials with decision-making responsibility about this case, so that they may become familiar with the subject matter and issues presented," the agencies wrote in the motion. "Requests to continue proceedings to allow time for new administration officials to become familiar with cases under their authority are customary."  Eighteen states filed the original lawsuit: Alabama, Arkansas, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Missouri and Idaho later joined as plaintiffs.  A critical habitat designation mandates that federal agencies consult with FWS or NMFS before approving or funding any projects in the area. The states' lawsuit takes aim at a rule that gives the agencies more flexibility to designate land that is not the current home to the species.  The agencies previously could only consider unoccupied habitat if they determined that the species could not recover without it. Now they can consider both unoccupied and occupied habitat at the same time.  The states argue that the rule change, among others, unlawfully expands the government's control over state lands and waters.

DEQ Secretary makes leadership announcements

Court Halts Cooper’s Cabinet Confirmations

Sandbags remain hard problem to solve along N.C. coast

County to pay up to $500K for Southern Shores nourishment 

County to help fund Southern Shores project

House committee report says state should step-up role in maintenance of ocean inlets 

Area officials taking flood map concerns to Raleigh

Fearing tourism losses, Outer Banks property owners sue NCDOT to stop NC 12 bridge

NTB to allow swimming pools on oceanfront setback

The Wilmington District, Corps of Engineers, received a request from the Village of Bald Head Island to dredge Frying Pan Shoals and discharge the dredged material along the shoreline of Bald Head Island, including West Beach and South Beach, for groin fillet maintenance and beach nourishment. 

Group calls for U.S. flood insurance revamp as program deadline nears

Officials to talk impact - Draft federal flood maps focus of meeting in Raleigh

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Lawsuit by group of OBX homeowners claims state cut illegal deal with environmental group 

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Industry sees opening to revamp species protection law
Emily Yehle, E&E News reporter, February 3, 2017
About 30 baleen whales live year-round in an underwater canyon off the Florida Panhandle, in an area of the Gulf of Mexico that is currently off-limits to oil and gas activity but could be reopened in 2022.  The subspecies of Bryde's whale may be the most endangered whale in the world, and right now, one U.S. law prohibits companies and agencies from killing or harassing them: the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The 45-year-old law has avoided tinkering by Congress since 1994, when provisions were added to address fisheries that inadvertently harm marine mammals. But the oil and gas industry has long found the act's permitting process burdensome — and it sees a possible opening for updates with a Republican Congress and a Trump administration.  Like other statutes, the MMPA "should be reviewed and reauthorized from time to time to reflect current-day realities," said Dustin Van Liew, director of regulatory and government affairs at the International Association of Geophysical Contractors. "The act has predominantly fulfilled the original intent of Congress, ending the threat of extinction and allowing for increasing populations of marine mammals across the board in response to the regulation of overhunting, overfishing and unscrupulous trade."  Van Liew said the IAGC "welcomes a discussion" with Congress and the administration on how to modernize the MMPA. The National Ocean Industries Association declined to comment on the MMPA, referring a reporter to IAGC.
It's unclear whether the MMPA will interest GOP lawmakers who have historically focused on higher-profile laws such as the Endangered Species Act and the Antiquities Act. But several environmental groups are already sounding the alarm.  The Natural Resources Defense Council included MMPA on a list of the policies that it worries could be weakened by the Trump administration and its "GOP allies." Oceana has also identified it as a possible target of the current Congress.  "In terms of 'modernize,' I would point out that's language we often hear from industry affected by environmental laws and regulations," said Lara Levison, senior director of federal policy at Oceana. "The law has done a great deal to protect marine mammals, but its work is far from accomplished."  Michael Jasny, director of NRDC's Marine Mammal Protection Project, said he doesn't know of any specific plans to amend the MMPA. But he pointed to past industry criticism of the incidental harassment authorizations required under the law for any project that might harm or disturb a marine mammal.  "It's hard not to be worried about everything," Jasny said. "This is a dark age for anyone who is concerned about the environment or public health."
'Why should it take so long?'
Broadly, the MMPA prohibits anyone from harassing or killing a marine mammal without permission from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service routinely gives that permission to various companies, groups and federal agencies, along with a set of requirements to mitigate the effects of a project on marine mammals.  A company conducting seismic surveys, for example, usually is limited to operating its underwater air guns during certain times and within certain areas. That's because the air guns — used to find mineral deposits beneath the seafloor — can mask the calls of whales, as well as interrupt their feeding and cause hearing loss.
Those mitigation measures can be a source of controversy, with environmental groups sometimes arguing that they are not stringent enough. Most recently, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of NRDC and others in holding that NMFS failed to adequately consider the impacts of the Navy's sonar testing system on marine mammals (E&E News PM, July 15, 2016).
For the oil and gas industry, a main frustration has been the length of the permitting process. IAGC pointed to its members' attempts to get authorization for seismic surveys in the Atlantic.  The permits were rolled up into a broader controversy over the Obama administration's initial proposal to open the Atlantic to drilling. The administration eventually decided to not allow oil and gas leasing off the East Coast — and eventually denied the permits for seismic surveys.  But by then, NOAA had spent more than two years reviewing applications from companies for geophysical surveys. The delay was brought up at least once in a congressional hearing, with an IAGC witness asserting that seismic surveys don't hurt marine mammal populations (E&E Daily, July 15, 2015).  "Seismic surveying can be conducted safely, causing no harm to marine mammals, so why should it take so long to get a permit?" Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) said at the 2015 hearing. "I have yet to hear a reasonable answer to this question."  That same year, Republican Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, John Cornyn of Texas and Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker of Mississippi — along with then-Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana — proposed changes to the MMPA process in a bill to expand oil and gas activity to the eastern Gulf, home of the Bryde's whale (E&E Daily, May 13, 2015). Among other things, the bill would have set hard deadlines for NOAA to act upon or deny requests for incidental harassment authorizations.
Van Liew of IAGC said yesterday that MMPA, "as applied today, is imposing regulatory burdens that are impossible for the federal government to meet."  "Offshore energy development is threatened with major delays and unnecessary restrictions due to the inability of federal agencies to implement the MMPA's vague or overly protective standards," he said.  Environmentalists pointed out that the Atlantic is new territory for oil and gas activity, as well as home to the endangered North Atlantic right whale. Gathering and analyzing the best available science for an incidental harassment authorization would take NOAA longer than usual in that case, they said.  At a time when the ocean is becoming more dangerous to marine mammals — thanks to increasing ship traffic, noise and energy development — Jasny and Levison said the MMPA is an important protection.  "Trying to open up a statute to undermine it in any way, it's inappropriate," Jasny said. "It would meddle with a statute that is working well, and it would go against the passionate interest and concern of the American public."

North Topsail Looks to Fast-Track Groin Study

Sandbag assessments on hold as legal challenge continues 

Challenge filed in federal court to block Rodanthe bridge 

Sand flows from inlet channel onto Garden City (SC) 

County considers 'engineered' beaches (Georgetown County, SC) 

North Topsail leaders to hear presentation on hardened structure project

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Edisto Beach begins project to replenish sand  

Longer bypass for four-wheel drives at Cape Point now open

Carteret County Beach Commission Meeting Agenda
February 6, 2017; Pine Knoll Shores Town Hall, 2 pm

NC Coastal Resources Commission Meeting Agenda
February 7-8, 2017; DoubleTree; Atlantic Beach 

Carolina Beach dune-rebuilding event sees record turnout, eyes Kure Beach for 2018

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A Scientists’ March on Washington Is a Bad Idea

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State Floodplain Mapping Office holds public meetings 

Park Service superintendent to visit Ocracoke today about new beach access changes, FEMA specialists on island. 

White House Chief of Staff Orders Freezing of Pending Regulations (Endangered Species related)

UNC Collaboratory Set to Begin Research 

Southern Shores moves closer to beach nourishment 

Kitty Hawk wind farm sale set for March

Barrier-island migration drives large-scale marsh loss

From Forest to Beach

Nags Head Officials Ask Feds For Beach Renourishment Help

Hurricane Matthew destroyed Hunting Island. Here’s the plan for the park’s new look

North Topsail Beach leaders moving forward on hardened structure

In Corova, Battle Rages Over Development

Edisto begins beach renourishment project after Hurricane Matthew damage

Photos: Holden Beach nourishment project

Reflections on Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge 

Public meetings to address county preliminary flood maps (Onslow)

Contractor for beach work in three towns plans to start in May 

Matthew blamed for loss of a third of Nags Head’s new beach

Southern Shores hires firm to examine beach nourishment 

Southern Shores takes step toward beach nourishment 

FEMA maps generate a flood of concerns

US to lease Atlantic Ocean for offshore wind farm off Kitty Hawk

Dredge to return to Ocracoke tomorrow 

More dredging at Ocracoke ferry channel could interrupt service 

Flood maps meeting attracts property owners seeking answers 

Preliminary flood maps explained at packed Hatteras Island meeting 

Park Service superintendent, staff to visit Ocracoke about new beach access changes 

Maritime forest a thorny issue for Sullivan's Island

N.C. 12 bridge to be built much faster and much cheaper than expected 

Contract awarded for bridge bypassing northern Rodanthe 

Whales are washing up on Outer Banks beaches more often. Why? That's disputed.

Topsail Beach to defend itself against resident lawsuit

County, state closing in on interim solution to Hatteras Inlet shoaling

Oak Island council approves beach-repair plan

Oak Island council initiates sand program, lets wedding and parking rules alone 

Some Sea Pines homes could remain at risk for damage through next hurricane season (SC) 

Obama administration denies seismic testing permits 

Morehead City plans flood mitigation meeting

Oak Island to decide how to replace dunes 

Getting to the Point

Plans for seismic tests off Virginia coast rejected by federal officials

Federal agency rejects applications for seismic surveying 

NEWS RELEASE - BOEM Denies Atlantic Seismic G&G Permits

Judge Halts Topsail Beach Building Permits

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Study: Coastal NC Officials Not Willing To Prepare For Sea Level Rise 

Hilton Head Island beach renourishment wraps up for the year

How will Hunting Island be rebuilt?

Group Urges Denial of Seismic Permits 

Activists disappointed new drilling ban excludes N.C.

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