Reprinted from Carteret County News-Times
With $3.5 million in hand from the state budget, Carteret County is gearing up to start work as soon as possible on a major boat launching facility off Highway 24 next to the Morada Bay subdivision in Ocean.
Carteret County planning director Gene Foxworth said in an email Wednesday the county is in the permitting stage of the project.
“Once permitting is complete, our construction schedule should be approximately 18 months,” he said.
Of the $3.5 million allocated for the project, $2.5 million is for actual construction and $1 million is for dredging a channel in Bogue Sound to the site.
State Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret, helped put the money in the state budget.
The plan is for the county and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to construct 170 parking spaces and six boat ramps, although those numbers could change during the permitting process.
“The acquisition and construction of this facility will certainly enhance the water access on the western end of Carteret County,” Foxworth said. “We know, both from what we see at our local ramps and from data we have collected during this process, that the need is there.”
He thanked McElraft for her efforts to get the money in the state budget, and said Robin Comer, who represents part of western Carteret on the county commission, has been a big advocate for the project.
McElraft said last week she agrees the facility is much needed and was happy to be able to provide the money. It comes from the North Carolina Shallow Draft Navigation Channel Dredging and Aquatic Weed Fund, which gets money from sales and transfers of boat titles and from the boat fuel tax.
Normally, McElraft said there has to be a one-third local match for money from that fund, but by placing it in the budget, no match is required.
There was $60 million in the fund last year, and McElraft noted it is similar to the Powell Bill, or gas tax, fund which pays for road maintenance. The navigation fund pays for activities to improve and maintain channels, which she called “coastal highways.”
The new facility, she said, will relieve pressure on boat launches in western Carteret County, such as the relatively small one off Highway 24 in Cedar Point and the large one in Emerald Isle, which has four boat ramps and 160 parking spaces.
There are often waits to use those in the peak tourism season, McElraft said, and with the heavy motor vehicle traffic on Highway 58 in Emerald Isle, it’s difficult for mainland residents pulling boats to get over the bridge to the facility, which is off the highway east of the municipal complex.
The new facility is going to be on part of 76.25 acres of property the North Carolina Coastal Federation and the county partnered to acquire in March 2020.
The federation plans to build its new Center for Coastal Protection and Restoration and its new headquarters on 10 acres at the site.
The acquisition cost was $7.4 million, with funds from the coastal federation, the state legislature and two state grants, including one from the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund – now known as North Carolina Land and Water Trust Fund – and the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund.
The U.S. Navy also provided funds and acquired a restrictive easement over the entire property to prohibit incompatible development near Bogue Field, a training site for the Unites States Marine Corps. Bogue Field is an auxiliary of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in Havelock.
At the time of the purchase, the federation said, “The coastal federation plans to build a new Center for Coastal Protection and Restoration on its 10 acres on the southwest side of property. Carteret County will manage the remaining acres, including the protected conservation areas as a county nature park offering natural trails and recreational opportunities.”
“The Center for Coastal Protection and Restoration will be a special resource that will support the federation’s work coastwide,” Federation Executive Director Todd Miller said in a statement in March 2020. “It will embody the mission of the Coastal Federation, bringing the community together around shared educational and recreational resources and providing an example of sustainability for our coastal communities.”
Local leaders also commented on the land acquisition.
“The boating access area and other public recreation opportunities afforded by this acquisition will be a true asset to Carteret County and all of Eastern North Carolina,” Comer said at the time. “The county appreciates all of the support we have receive from our federal, state and local partners to bring this project to fruition.”
This story is provided courtesy of the Carteret County News-Times, a newspaper published in Morehead City. Coastal Review partners with the News-Times to provide our readers with news of the North Carolina coast. Some information in this story came from a past report in Coastal Review.