The North Carolina Coastal Federation’s efforts to expand investment in the state’s oyster industry are picking up speed in Raleigh.
Recently, Gov. Roy Cooper released his proposed budget for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 bienniums. Cooper’s budget includes all of the federation’s priority oyster investments. Those include $1.35 million to rebuild sanctuary oyster beds in the Pamlico Sound, $1.1 million for cultch planting along the entire coast and an additional $100,000 in funding for the federation’s crab pot cleanup efforts.
Of course, changes to Cooper’s spending plan are expected during the legislature’s budget process. But such a strong endorsement of the oyster restoration effort in North Carolina speaks volumes about its increasing bipartisan support.
The governor’s budget would also make important investments in the trust funds that protect land and water. His budget includes about $20 million over the next two fiscal years to the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, the state’s most important funding source for open-space protection. The Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, which provides dollar-for-dollar matching grants to local governments for parks and recreational projects, would also see an additional $10 million over the next two years.
The federation is finding similar support for oysters in the legislature. In February, staff members joined Jay Styron of the N.C. Shellfish Growers Association; Daniel Lewis, owner of Coastal Provisions Oyster Bar & Wine Bar Café and President of the OBX Restaurant Association; and Ryan Speckman of Local Seafood in Raleigh for a series of meetings with legislators. In the Senate, they met with the entire coastal delegation — Sens. Harry Brown, Bill Cook, Norman Sanderson, Mike Lee and Bill Rabon. Having that many senators with that much pull in one place is a very unusual yet positive sign for the federation’s efforts on oysters. On the House side, the group also had good meetings with Reps. Pat McElraft, Bob Steinburg, Chuck McGrady and Beverly Boswell, as well as with the environmental policy staff for Speaker Tim Moore.
Federation representatives have also had very positive meetings with Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Michael Regan and his management team as well as with Charles Perusse, Cooper’s budget director, to update them on oyster related requests and review opportunities to work together.
The federation’s focus will remain on oysters in March, as legislators and policy makers will attend the upcoming summit, Sound Economic Development: Creating a Rising Economic Tide for the North Carolina Coast on March 22 and 23. Join us for the summit, and especially for the March 22 Legislative Oyster Reception, which is an excellent opportunity to educate lawmakers about the importance of oysters to the coast and the economy — and to enjoy some fabulous oysters! For more information about the summit, visit nccoast.org/economicsummit.
For more information about the federation’s policy work in Raleigh, visit nccoast.org/raleighreport.