By Rob Morris on May 16, 2014
Legislation to authorize buying or making a trade for Oregon Inlet and establish an acquisition fund that could also be used for dredging was introduced this week in the General Assembly.
The bill, submitted by Republican Sen. Bill Cook, calls for an appropriation of $15 million to create the Outer Banks Land Management Fund, which would accumulate interest for a potential purchase of the inlet and federal land surrounding it.
In last year’s session, the General Assembly set up the Oregon Inlet Acquisition Task Force. The panel is wrapping up a study of options for obtaining ownership, which would give the state more power to build jetties and maintain the channel.
Money from the fund, if the bill passes, would be used to create Oregon Inlet State Park.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is now responsible for dredging but has had to scratch around for money in recent years. The latest budget proposal from the Obama administration allocates only $800,000 for maintenance of the inlet and nearby waterways, barely enough for surveying.
While the state negotiates with the federal government over obtaining the inlet property, money in the management fund could be used for dredging under Cook’s bill. Memorandums of agreement are already in place to allow the state to pay the Corps for dredging.
The short session deals primarily with budget and non-controversial issues.
Major dredging funded by $7.8 million in Hurricane Sandy relief money cleared a channel more than 14 feet deep and 400 to 600 feet wide in December. But the work was quickly undone by sand migrating south from Bodie Island spit.
At one point, the channel was impassable through the navigation span of the Bonner Bridge. A cut has since been cleared by the Corps to deeper water.
Establishment of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore transferred ownership of the property around the inlet to the U.S. Department of the Interior, according to a statement from Cook’s office. The deed was recorded Sept. 3, 1958, in the Dare County Registry of Deeds.
“While the federal government may have had good intentions when they purchased the land around the inlet in 1958, they have unfortunately failed to uphold their promise to take good care of the inlet. Under their control the inlet has been unnavigable and dangerous,” Cook said in the statement. “The time has come to reclaim the land around Oregon Inlet to properly develop and manage it.”