With the General Assembly moving quickly toward adjournment, the main point of discussion has been the proposed budget, which had to get worked out between the House and Senate. The conference report budget is now available (full link), and contains a number of important provisions regarding transportation funding, international business recruiting, economic development, education and ferry tolling–but I wanted to pass along what we consider to be the two most important provisions for Coastal North Carolina.
1) The state is creating a Coastal Management position of beach and inlet management project manager with the Division of Coastal Management of the Department of Environmental Quality for the purpose of overseeing all activities related to beach and inlet management in the State.
2) Between now and November 1, a number of important beach nourishment studies will be underway. The full list is below, but these will facilitate the larger beach nourishment discussion that we expect to happen when the General Assembly gets back together in 2017. With federal funding going away, having the state step in to cost-share with local governments will keep the burden from falling solely on local governments and property owners. (To put it another way, the state is doing its due diligence on stepping in and helping us with a $40+ million problem.)
BEACH NOURISHMENT STUDIES
SECTION 14.22.(a) The Division of Coastal Management and the Department of Environmental Quality shall study and provide an executive summary of readily available data and existing studies on the physical and economic, storm mitigation, and public safety benefits of out-of-state coastal storm damage reduction and beach nourishment projects. Specific items benefitted by coastal storm damage reduction shall include, at a minimum, public infrastructure, public property, private property, small businesses, and tourism. The results of the study shall be reported no later than November 1, 2016, to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Natural and Economic Resources.
SECTION 14.22.(b) The County Tax Office of each covered county shall work together to identify all privately and publicly owned property island-wide in the county. A covered county includes the Counties of Brunswick, New Hanover, Pender, Onslow, Carteret, Hyde, Dare, and Currituck. Each County Tax Office shall determine whether the mailing/ownership address on the tax record of such property is (i) in the county where such property is located, (ii) in a noncovered county in North Carolina, or (iii) outside the State of North Carolina. Each County Tax Office shall send an electronic list of the property addresses and matched mailing/ownership addresses suitable for electronic sorting no later than November 1, 2016, to the Department of Environmental Quality and the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Natural and Economic Resources.
SECTION 14.22.(c) The Department of Commerce shall study and provide an executive summary of readily available economic data related to the 20 coastal counties of the State for the purpose of quantifying the contribution of the coastal economy to the economy of the State as a whole, considering, at a minimum, the benefits of travel and tourism, small businesses, job creation and opportunity, and tax revenues, including property, sales, and income taxes. The Department shall report the results of the study no later than November 1, 2016, to the Department of Environmental Quality and the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Natural and Economic Resources.
SECTION 14.22.(d) The Department of Environmental Quality shall include the studies required by each subsection of this section as appendices to the Beach and Inlet Management Plan required by Section 14.6(b)(4) of S.L. 2015-241.
Stay tuned as the session winds to a close. There are still a few legislative priorities which we hope will move forward before the legislature leaves Raleigh. As always, please let us know how we can assist.