A nomination to designate a Carteret County watershed as an area of environmental concern will go before the Coastal Resources Commission this month.
The meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday, June 15, at the Riverfront Convention Center, 203 S. Front St., New Bern. Public comment period begins at noon.
The agenda and meeting materials are on the website of the Division of Coastal Management, which provides staffing services to the commission, implements its rules and issues Coastal Area Management Act, or CAMA, permits.
The Beaufort Citizens Alliance nominated Gibbs Creek, a tidal creek watershed in the North River estuary, that petitioners call “the last remaining mostly undeveloped tributary tidal creek watershed in the jurisdiction of Beaufort.”
The alliance submitted the nomination March 13 to the Division of Coastal Management. The petitioners are asking that the commission designate the watershed as a coastal complex natural area of environmental concern, under the broader category of fragile natural or cultural resource AEC, officials said. Of the four types of AEC, this is the only one that can be nominated by the public.
This type of AEC is defined by the state as “areas containing environmental, natural or cultural resources of more than local significance in which uncontrolled or incompatible development could result in major or irreversible damage to natural systems or cultural resources, scientific, educational, or associative values, or aesthetic qualities.”
Within 60 days of the nomination being submitted, division staff must hold a preliminary evaluation meeting, which took place May 8.
The next step in the AEC nomination process is for division staff to present the preliminary evaluation to the commission members, which is the item on this month’s agenda.
If the commission decides to endorse the agenda, division staff will conduct a detailed review within 90 days. Once that is complete, division staff will present its findings to the commission members to decide whether or not to continue with the nomination.
Division staff does not recommend that the commission endorse the AEC nomination because of a handful of findings, including that the nomination does not include the entire watershed that drains into Gibbs Creek, and that the properties have been changed by human activity, documents state.
If the commission does not endorse the nomination during the meeting this month, recommendations for other types of protection may be discussed with the landowner such as registry with the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, a conservation easement with a public agency or to a local conservation foundation, donation or acquisition of title, or other strategies, officials said.
Commission members also are expected to take action on a fiscal analysis for rule changes to allow an ocean hazard area exception to apply to all property owners, not just property platted before June 1, 1979, and a fiscal analysis for a proposed permit fee increase.
Also on the agenda, the board will hear a variance request for an oceanfront setback in Bald Head Island, and consider the town of Oak Island Beach Management plan.