Coastal businesses want NC to reclaim ownership of Oregon Inlet
Posted May 31, 2013
Nags Head, N.C. — Saying they are frustrated with frequent impassibility of Oregon Inlet, coastal businesses are cheering a plan to study the possibility of a state takeover of the mercurial waterway.
A provision in the budget proposal approved last week by the state Senate calls for the creation of a task force to consider how ownership of the inlet and surrounding land could be transferred from the federal government to North Carolina.
The state deeded Oregon Inlet to the federal government in 1958, and it now is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Spokesmen for the National Park Service, which oversees the inlet, said talk of a potential state takeover caught them off guard. The North Carolina Coastal Federation, which advocates for protecting coastal waterways and beaches, calls the idea unrealistic.
Business owners, however, want action as soon as possible.
"Why are we going to spend a year re-answering questions we already know the answers to? Let's move forward to get the necessary lands," said Harry Schiffman, who owns a tow boat company.
Moving sand constantly clogs Oregon Inlet, which is a critical path for commercial and recreational boats traveling along the Outer Banks.
"It's been a crisis for a long time," said John Bayliff, whose Wanchese company builds and repairs boats. "The negative reputation of Oregon Inlet keeps people away."
Business owners said they trust the state to act quickly in their interests when Mother Nature blocks the channel.
"If we only have to deal with the state and the state agencies in order to get this project done, it would be a lot easier," said Jim Tobin, who owns Pirate's Cove Marina in Manteo.
Currently, when the state has available money, it hires a dredging ship to clear the channel, but that solution is temporary at best.
"Since November, our channel has been blocked more than it has been usable," Schiffman said.
The business owners want an elaborate sand-removal system built or jetties to provide a more permanent solution to keep the inlet clear. The state Senate recently repealed a law that limited how many jetties could be built along the coast.
Either proposal would cost tens of millions of dollars, but coastal residents argue that the economic boost a clear channel would provide would easily offset those costs.
"It's a shame to have opportunity, growth, jobs, business and have all that turned away," Bayliff said.