Reprinted from the Carteret County News-Times
Carteret County residents got the chance to ask questions and express concerns Tuesday about announced plans by the N.C. State Ports Authority to construct a new multi-use terminal on Radio Island.
The authority and its representatives held a public information event Sept. 26 at the Crystal Coast Civic Center in Morehead City.
There was no formal presentation and no typical public comment session. Instead, there were tables with maps and documents on the wall for people to look at, and port representatives were behind the table to answer questions.
According to a flyer available to the public at the meeting, “the proposed project is to support new industry opportunities to the State and the authority” and “for the generation of jobs and the labor income to improve employment, increase median income, decrease the poverty rate in Carteret County and the region and transition N.C. to a clean energy economy. Additional actions include roadway and rail improvements and a natural gas line from Morehead City to Radio Island.”
According to the flyer, the project will:
- Improve the port’s ability to expand its customer base.
- Introduce new growth opportunities for automotive and wind power industries.
- Allow the port to serve as an offshore wind hub.
- Support North Carolina energy and economic development goals.
- – Help the state transition to a clean energy economy.
For the automotive industry, there would be a 100,000-square-foot warehouse/office space building on the northern end of the port property, and a 4,000-space parking lot.
Landside access could be from car carriers accessing the lot from Radio Island and/or new rail spurs that would tie into the existing rail along Radio Island Road.
For the wind energy industry, there would be a 300,000-square-foot fabrication building, a new rail spur along Marine Drive, approximately 60 parking spaces for private vehicles, and a 60-acre gravel pad in front of the fabrication building.
Residents speaking to port representatives expressed some concern about polluted stormwater runoff into the estuarine waters from massive amounts of paving and large new buildings but seemed especially concerned about traffic.
“I just don’t see how you can improve our roads enough to support all these trucks that would come and to accommodate all the employees,” one man said. “There’s no room to expand Arendell Street.”
Another man said the trains that run through Morehead City to the port already cause traffic bottlenecks, and wondered how many more trains there could be.
Jane Youngblood, who lives on Radio Island, said it’s already difficult to get on and off Radio Island and is concerned the project would make it even more difficult, especially with the high-rise bridge between Morehead City and Radio Island only one lane in each direction.
Michael Braun of HDR Engineering in Raleigh, working with the Ports Authority on the project, said the process to develop an environmental impact statement for the project has begun and the document should be available for public comment fairly soon.
The Ports Authority anticipates a public review period in the first and second quarters of 2024, followed by final design and permitting in the third and fourth quarters of 2024.
Braun said the property for the facility could be sold or it could be leased, and who it’s leased or sold to would determine how it is used and how much traffic to the facility would come by ships, trains or trucks.
The Ports Authority owns 154 acres of undeveloped land on the island, and development of it for a multi-use facility for the automotive and wind industries has been around since at least 2021, when then Carteret County Economic Development Director Don Kirkman pitched in May 2021 during a Morehead City Council workshop meeting.
The land is within the limits of Morehead City and is zoned for port-maritime use.
“Radio Island is uniquely positioned on the east coast of the United States for this type of project related to port development,” Mr. Kirkman said to the council at the time. “The property is already publicly owned, it’s on deep water, there’s a minimal amount of dredging required, the infrastructure is all in place, including Morehead City water and sewer utilities, the zoning is in place.
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.