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Possible Inlet Closings


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The current federal ban on earmarks is a major problem for SE NC beach communities. Federal earmarks were the primary source of funds to keep NC's shallow draft inlets open. Commercial traffic is already severely limited (meaning transit is possible at high tide only) at Carolina Beach Inlet and Topsail Inlet and possibly others. Once the Coast Guard deems inlets to be too shallow for safe navigation they will remove their markers thus preventing commercial operators who are concerned about liability from using the channels.

The inlets at threat of closure include (from North to South in the Wilmington metro):

New River


Carolina Beach

Lockwood Folly


(Bouge, Barden (aka Cape Lookout), Ocracoke and Hatteras are the state's other shallow draft inlets at risk -- I believe that Oregon inlet has funding for maintenance)

Discussions are underway in most communities affected to raise local money and solicit state funding for the inlet maintenance although little progress has been made on alternative funding sources. If the inlets are closed (and several appear likely to be closed before the summer is over) recreational and commercial users would be forced to travel to the Cape Fear or Masonboro inlet in the South and Beaufort inlet in the north.

While closure will certainly have economic impacts (recreational fishermen spend lots of $) these inlets (even at their best) handle little trade and only a bit of commercial fishing so from a production perspective impacts will be limited. However, cutting off easy access to the ocean in eastern NC would be a huge cultural shift for the state.

EDIT: By "closing" I don't mean that the inlet will completely fill in, only that it will be closed to navigation for most users.

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The state has agreed to cover 1/2 of the cost of inlet dredging if the municipalities and counties are able to pay the other half. These funds should maintain inlets at useable depths until June 2012. Funding for next year's maintenance is not yet clear.

Topsail inlet now has obligated funds from Pender County, Topsail Beach and Surf City so dredging should begin within 2 months. Local funding has been identified for Carolina Beach Inlet (New Hanover county will vote on its portion of the funds next week). It appears that no funding has yet been generated for Lockwood Folly (Brunswick county) or Bouge (Carteret county) inlets.


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