Dare commissioners float public-private partnership for dredging projects 

Published 7:24 am Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Keeping Dare County waterways open is a constant concern. Commissioners advanced a dredging proposal last week, just as an idea about using the county’s occupancy tax for dredging is floating around the General Assembly.

Dare commissioner Jim Tobin proposed a public-private partnership to secure dredging for Oregon and Hatteras inlets.

The board unanimously supported a resolution calling for the Dare County Manager/Attorney Robert L. Outten to coordinate with the Oregon Inlet Task Force in submitting a five-year dredge plan to the state of and providing a maintenance dredging fund for the two inlets.

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The multi-year funding proposal would carry a county price tag of $3.25 million to reimburse for dredge work with a shallow draft hopper dredge “assigned/designated to Dare County and adjacent waters to reach and maintain federal authorized depths.”

A cost share proposal with the state is envisioned with Dare contributing $3 million and the state allocating $6 million for Oregon Inlet and Dare setting aside $250,000 and the state $750,000 for Hatteras Inlet. The cost-sharing proposal totals $10 million.

Dare already has $3 million set aside for dredging. The resolution authorizes the expenditure of county funds and signals to the dredge owner that the county will participate in the proposal.

State dollars would come from the Shallow Draft Navigation Channel Dredging and Lake Maintenance Fund, which is not yet funded.

Dredging is also found in legislation proposed by out-going North Carolina Sen. Bill Cook. The draft bill would change the distribution of the occupancy tax designated for the Dare County Tourism Board.

The proposal has not been requested by the Dare Board of Commissioners, reported Lee Nettles at the Tourism Summit on Thursday morning.

The tourism board receives one percent of the proceeds from the six percent occupancy tax. Two percent goes to beach nourishment. Three percent is split between Dare County and its six municipalities.

Nettles reported that the one percent for the tourism board is $3 million. State legislation requires the 75 percent of the $3 million be spent for administration and promoting tourism. A quarter of the revenue must be put to reducing the impact of tourism.

The draft legislation calls for taking a quarter of the administration and promotion money and redirecting it to beach nourishment. The legislation reduces the 75 percent to 50 percent or takes away $1.8 million from tourism board’s budget, said Nettles.

In addition to redirecting the money to beach nourishment, the legislation changes the definition of beach nourishment to include dredging and “the construction of hardened structures designed to prevent erosion,” though specifically not jetties.