BEAUFORT — Discussing shellfish leases, development lines and beach fill projects are all on the agenda for the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission’s meeting Wednesday and Thursday.

The CRC will meet at the Beaufort Hotel on Lennoxville Road. The Coastal Resources Advisory Council will meet at 10 a.m. Wednesday, while the CRC will begin its meeting at 1:15 p.m. that day, then recess at 5 p.m. The meeting will resume at 9 a.m. Thursday and adjourn at noon.

Several items on the agenda involve shellfish leases, a hot-button topic in Carteret County. There’s a moratorium on shellfish leases in Bogue Sound, as well as Masonboro Sound, until Thursday, July 1, 2021, while the state explores regulations and procedures for siting shellfish leases.

Local government officials and others have voiced concerns about shellfish leases located in public trust waters interfering with other uses, such as recreational boating and fishing. N.C. Division of Coastal Management major permits coordinator Jonathan Howell said in a Jan. 30 memorandum to the CRC that, since 2016, there’s only been one Coastal Area Management Act major permit application for a shellfish lease.

“The permit was issued without objection from any resource agencies,” he said. “However, DCM staff is noticing an increase in requests for structural components that may require a CAMA permit, including larger or greater densities of pilings to anchor gear, new growing systems, work platforms and floating upweller systems. DCM can address some of these requests…through the CAMA Major Permit process, but CRC rules lack specific use standards that apply to this type of development.” 

The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries reviews shellfish lease applications, while the Marine Fisheries Commission writes the rules and regulations. However, with new rules being considered, the DCM and CRC are being consulted due to their interest and concerns in the matter.

“As the state continues to encourage commercial cultivation of shellfish in coastal waters, DCM continues to seek guidance from the CRC on how to best manage this emerging industry in partnership with DMF and the MFC,” Mr. Howell said.

According to the memorandum, the DCM will recommend at this week’s meeting that the CRC delay taking formal action on a draft general permit rule until after the commission’s April meeting. This will allow the commission time to review the specific language proposed by the DMF on shellfish lease regulation.

DCM staff will also recommend moving forward with a rule exemption for shellfish bottom leases that involve only shell (cultch) placement, don’t involve cages or other water column gear and include no more than eight boundary markers less than 4 inches in diameter. Staff will also recommend moving forward with policy modifications to floating structures so floating upweller systems may be maintained at private docks.

The CRC will also continue a discussion on development lines and line exceptions. Development lines are established by local governments to measure beachfront property setbacks as an alternative to measuring from the first static line of vegetation on the beach dunes.

DCM shoreline management specialist Ken Richardson said in a Jan. 31 memorandum to the CRC the increasing number of beach fill projects has caused the commission to reconsider how the oceanfront erosion rate is calculated “as many shorelines were substantially farther seaward than they would have been without recent beach fill.”

The CRC will also discuss amendments to technical standards for beach fill projects. Mr. Richardson said in a different Jan. 31 memorandum that the proposed amendments’ purpose is “to further strengthen the methodology for characterizing the recipient beach” of a beach fill project.

Contact Mike Shutak at 252-726-7081 ext. 206, email mike@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.

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