The North Carolina Coastal Federation’s policy efforts in Raleigh have helped secure several million dollars in state funding to make the coast stronger during storms and reduce water pollution.
In November, lawmakers at the General Assembly met in special session to address changes to the state’s congressional districts and approve disaster aid for victims of Hurricane Dorian. The federation was successful in supporting $1.8M in funding in the disaster aid bill to replace an aging pump station in Hyde County.
Replacement of the pump station was a key recommendation of the Lake Mattamuskeet Restoration Plan, which the federation helped author last year. Along with other improvements, replacing the pump station will redirect agricultural runoff away from the lake while also significantly reducing flood risk to nearby homes and businesses. Lake Mattamuskeet is an important international habitat for migratory birds as well as an important travel and tourism attraction that supports jobs in the local community. During Hurricane Florence, the pump station came close to being inundated with floodwater. The federation worked closely with Hyde County Rep. Bobby Hanig and Outer Banks Sen. Bob Steinburg in support of this funding.
In addition to the Hurricane Dorian relief bill, lawmakers also approved legislation to fund the N.C. Department of Transportation. The NCDOT’s cash balance fell after it paid for extensive hurricane repairs, legal settlements and project overruns. The federation asked legislators to appropriate $2M in this bill for Living Shoreline projects for state-owned coastal highways and other transportation infrastructure. Living shoreline projects make NCDOT highways, bridges and other transportation infrastructure more resilient during storms while also reducing pollution from stormwater runoff. NCDOT operates 590 miles of highway within 100 feet of coastal waters and 2,700 miles under an elevation of 10 feet. The federation has been working closely with the NCDOT to improve resilience of coastal infrastructure and reduce stormwater runoff and other threats to coastal water quality.
Unfortunately, the General Assembly did not fund the federation’s popular crab pot clean up program, which employs commercial fishermen to pick up lost fishing gear in late January. Without this funding, it is unlikely the federation will sponsor the cleanup effort in 2020. Though the federation will not be leading this fishing gear recovery project in 2020, there are still plans to pursue funding for future years.
In addition to the crab pot clean up program, the budget stalemate has also cut off $1.5M for restoration of sanctuary oyster beds in the Pamlico Sound as well as several other recommendations of the Strategic Plan for the state’s oyster industry. The federation will continue to ask lawmakers to fund these projects when they return to work on January 14.