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March 5-6, 2010
Don't blow smoke if you're running for Sheriff. Story below...

Park Service proposes further restrictions on beach driving
The National Park Service made public Friday its long awaited – and long overdue – proposals for various ways to deal with beach driving at Cape Hatteras National Seashore in the interest of protecting nesting shore birds and sea turtles, and, the Park Service said, "to promote the safety of all visitors."

The various options published in the Federal Register as a "Draft Environmental Impact Statement" will not please many Hatteras islanders. But they and other Dare County residents, as well as those of Ocracoke and the general public, will have 60 days to respond, or sound off, before a final decision is made. That's due by the end of this year.

Outer Banks Park Service Superintendent Mike Murray (right), whose recommendations will carry the most weight, says ”the environmentally preferable" course of action is ORV restrictions "applied to larger areas over longer periods" than now apply under the 2008 federal court ordered consent decree.

See the Federal Register of March 5, pages 10307-8, for his comments. More detailed comments and filings are here. (Related story below.)

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Beach beautification announcement by Nags Head:
"Dare County artists are invited to apply to paint a new trash can, which will grace the beaches in Nags Head. Applications are being accepted to Town Hall or the Dare County Arts Council from March 9-11."

Elizabeth City Coast Guard chopper crashes in Utah
One of two Elizabeth City based Coast Guard helicopters – an MH-60T Jayhawk such as this – crashed in a remote area of the Rocky Mountains east of Salt Lake City Wednesday while on its way home after providing security at the Winter Olympics in Canada.

Its five crew members were rescued by snowmobiles and then flown to local hospitals. The condition of the most seriously injured, the female flight mechanic, who suffered internal injuries, was upgraded Friday from critical to serious. The pilot and co-pilot were in fair condition. The two other crew members were said to have minor injuries.

Wasatch County Sheriff Todd Bonner said visibility was "very minimal" at the time of the crash because of snow and wind.

"They (were) flying a low height," he said, "and they just kind of banked in the wrong area – didn't really see what was there apparently – and into the pine trees."

The Coast Guard sent a team to Utah to investigate the cause of the crash.

While it's at it, maybe the Coast Guard will explain why two choppers were dispatched from Elizabeth City and sent all the way across the continent for security, or whatever, at the Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.

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New way to beat the recession
Story and photo by Ed & Bobbie Beckley
Hot Line Too in Nags Head is giving away name brand prom gowns and shoes this year to help high school girls and their families offset the financial squeeze.

"We aren't talking about those hideous throw away dresses," says store manager Tammy Cross (right), shown here with volunteer Paula Diefert among just a few of the outfits available. "We're talking about new and gently worn gowns and evening dresses that our customers have donated, and they are really very nice."

Cross said all a girl has to do is email her name, phone number, high school name, dress size, shoe size and any questions to
promproject10@yahoo.com. A Hotline representative will email back to schedule an appointment to see if her prom dress is at Hotline Too in Nags Head.

The store is also seeking donations of dresses, shoes and evening bags. (Perhaps a few tuxedos might help as well to keep this year's prom-trotting on pace.)


N.C. liquor control system being peeled back like an onion
Rep. Pryor Gibson of Anson County, member of a special commission studying North Carolina's Alcoholic Beverage Control system, says the system is "much like a great big old onion. The more you peel, the more layers you get and the more you cry."

Gov. Beverly Perdue isn't tearing up but she has joined those who wonder just how much the system is actually worth, and whether the state would be better off letting private enterprise take over. Not that she's for that, but she's willing to listen.

Valuation Research Corporation of Chicago will be paid $175,000 to determine the value of the state-run warehouse, the system of locally-run stores and the value of alternative systems.

North Carolina is among 18 "liquor control" states, but the only one where local boards control the ABC stores around the state and are essentially independent in how they operate.

The result has been a recent spate of unsavory stories about local board members helping themselves to exorbitant salaries,
and parties and other cozy relationships with liquor wholesalers. The further result has been the first serious review of a liquor control system that dates back 73 years to days when moonshining remained big business in North Carolina despite the end of Prohibition.

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All polished and back on
The 1823 Ocracoke Lighthouse, second oldest in the nation still in operation, had been dark since Nov. 13 for repairs and renovations, including added storm protection. But with the work completed, the stately old beacon's 1860 fresnel lens, which survived dismantling and other indignities during the Civil War, was relit by the National Park Service at dusk on an otherwise dismal Wednesday.

The lady is a shortly among lighthouses at only 75 feet tall, but her signal is once again visible from 14 miles out at sea.

Candidate for Dare County Sheriff facing drug charges
Ryan Michael White of Rodanthe, 34, who owns Hatteras Jack, is one of two Republicans hoping to upset veteran Sheriff Rodney Midgett. At least he was before his court appearance on Thursday got publicized.

White was charged on Jan. 13 with one count each of possession of marijuana up to one-half ounce, possession of drug paraphernalia and reckless driving to endanger, all misdemeanors.

"I don't feel guilty," he told The Virginian-Pilot. His District Court case has been continued until May 6. Meantime, here's the latest report making the rounds.

County commissioner has reelection challenge
The candidate filing period ended last week with only three county contests ahead in addition to those for the state Senate and House. But one of the three shapes up as a major one.

Incumbent county Commissioner at large Jack Shea of Southern Shores, 83, a Republican, is being challenged for reelection in November by Robin Mann of Manns Harbor (left), 48, a Democrat, who narrowly lost her bid for a seat on the commission in a three-way contest four years ago.

"I'm full of energy," Mann told OBX Alert, "and ready to go to work for the citizens of Dare County. I will be asking for everyone’s support and vote in the coming months."

Commissioner Shea said his major concern is public access to the beaches and what he called "the very draconian regulations" imposed on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. "I love wildlife but people have the right to have access to public land."

"Robin is a nice person," Shea said of his challenger. "I am not going to make an issue of her youth and inexperience. I'm still vigorous and I'm going to campaign hard."

In the two other county contests, Doug Doughtie of Kill Devil Hills and Ryan White of Rodanthe will face each other in the May 4 Republican primary for the right to challenge Sheriff Rodney Midgett of Kill Devil Hills in November.

The Democratic primary will determine whether Vanzolla McMurran of Manteo remains Register of Deeds or Craig Garris of Kitty Hawk takes over. No Republicans filed for that office.

Click for all Dare County filings for the primary and general election contests this year.

Groundbreaking for McDonald's in Grandy

Marathon man has a motive
Chuck Parker of Martins Point (2nd from left) ran 42.7 miles Saturday, from the Currituck Lighthouse to Bodie Island Lighthouse, and in so doing in 7 hours and 59 minutes raised more than $4,000 for the local chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

"If this leads to students, athletes and coaches becoming better Christ followers," said Parker, a local bank vice president, "then it was all worth it."

His wife Donna (by his side) ran with him for 13 miles. Sons Nathan and Aaron (left and right in the foreground) were among some 30 volunteers who helped pace their dad. As one of the volunteers said, Parker's feat "was like running a full marathon, a half marathon and a 5K all in one day, and combining them all is less than 8 hours."

(The Bodie Island Lighthouse, by the way, is undergoing extensive renovations, the reason for all the scaffolding you see and the shroud at the top.)

Dare County spending on education criticized
School board chairman says funding agreement was violated
With the county in the process of setting a budget for the new fiscal year beginning July 1, Dare County school board chairman David Oaksmith (left), a former teacher, has appealed for restoration of a school funding formula agreed upon by the county 10 years ago but broken by the county in its current budget.

Basically, the county agreed to a per pupil funding basis with yearly increases, or decreases, based on the cost of living index

But "as a result of the county's financial situation," Oaksmith said Thursday, "Dare County schools were cut $1 million (in the current fiscal year's budget) and $400,000 from the capital budget."

"Regrettably," Oaksmith said in citing a few of the results, "we were forced to leave some teacher vacancies created by resignations unfilled. This has in some areas resulted in an increase in class size," which he and most educators consider a key to effective education.

As a result of Dare County's geography "and the public's desire to have small community schools", Oaksmith explained, "we have 11 separate schools serving 4,800 students," including "three high schools serving a school population of 1,500."

The current county budget for education is $18.1 million, or 24 percent of general fund expenditures.

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Basnight asks Obama for help with new Oregon Inlet bridge

Fishermen protest catch limits in Washington

Sea turtle rescue center sues to end gill net fishing
“We value the rich history of commercial fishermen and fishing communities in our state," says an attorney for the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center at Topsail Island, which has sued the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries and its commissioners.

"However," she says, "gill nets are a destructive gear and the prevailing method of use injures and kills sea turtles and threatens their existence.”

Attorney Michelle Nowlin of the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, which is representing the rescue center, also contends that the use of gill nets is in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act, and that their use has caused injuries and the deaths of thousands of sea turtles over the years.

The suit will be heard by federal Judge Terrence Boyle, who signed the 2008 consent decree that led to closures at Cape Hatteras National Seashore for the protection of nesting shore birds and sea turtles. (More on that situation below.)

Marine Fisheries Commissioners recently voted to continue to allow large mesh gill net fishing but restricted it to four days a week. Commercial fishermen fear that a total ban will put them out of business.

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National Seashore closure areas announced
In advance of a March 15 deadline, the National Park Service has marked off areas of Cape Hatteras National Seashore it intends to close this year for the protection of endangered shorebirds during the nesting season.

The actual closures to off-road vehicles and/or fisherman and other beach goers will be determined by conditions at the time. But you can click here to read
descriptions and see maps of the areas involved.

March 15 as the deadline for establishing the closure areas was part of a 2008 consent degree signed by federal Judge Boyle (right), settling a suit by Defenders of Wildlife and the National Audubon Society against the Park Service for its failure to issue a long-term plan governing off-road vehicles at the seashore for the protection of nesting birds and sea turtles.

The consent decree also mandated that the Park Service complete an ORV management plan by December 31 of this year and put it into operation by April 1 of next year.

Dare County commissioners, along with those of Hyde County, agreed to the terms of the decree in April of 2008 as "intervenor-defendants" of the Park Service but have been unhappy ever since.

In a county press release, they lashed out against the Audubon Society for a letter asking the Park Service advocating “the highest level of protection” possible for wildlife at the seashore. This, the press release said, "would prohibit year round recreational access for everyone."

Commission chairman Warren Judge added, "To close the beaches even further would be a prescription for economic suicide for the hard-working Americans serving the visitors of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area.”

Click Audubon Society to see the letter in question.

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Village of Nags Head wastewater plant having problems

The underground plant is "unable to consistently comply" with its permit to treat wastewater at the Village, according to the state Division of Water Quality, and has asked for six months to renovate its 400,000 gallons per day facility before penalties are assessed.

The state has announced its intention to give Charlotte based Carolina Water Service, Inc. from April 11 until Oct. 1 of this year to upgrade the plant by issuing a "Special Order by Consent," which means, essentially, a grace period mutually agreed upon by Carolina Water Service and the Water Quality division.

However, before the special order is issued, the public is being given until March 27 to send comments to David May at the division's regional office in Washington, N.C. (david.may@ncdenr.gov).
Smoke Stick - Alternative Smoking

Daily Reports
Avalon Fishing Pier & Piercam
Cape Hatteras Fishing Reports
Oregon Inlet Fishing Reports
Golf Courses, Conditions
N.C. Lottery Results

Links:
Carova Corner

Eastern Carolina Radio News

N.C. Beach Buggy Association

N.C. Fishing and Hunting Licenses

Ocracoke Newsletter

Outer Banks Free Press
Outer Banks Marinas
Russ's Outer Banks Journal

Southern Shores Times

Talking About Politics

Truth or Dare


Currituck County

Dare County
- Animal Shelter and Adoptable Pets
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Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station
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Confederate Fortification Markers
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Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum
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Lighthouses
- N.C. Aquarium on Roanoke Island
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Outer Banks History Center
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Outer Banks Visitors Bureau
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Roanoke Island Festival Park
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The Lost Colony
Hyde County

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Ocracoke Village

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The Editor