Hyde fishing industry floated $1.8 million in state grants

Published 3:42 pm Friday, April 4, 2008

By Staff
Manager : may save‘severely struggling’businesses
Staff Writer
Hyde County’s foundering fishing industry was thrown a nearly $2 million life preserver Thursday, the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries announced.
Thirteen sites were selected to receive funding from the Waterfront Access and Marine Industry Fund. Three of the sites are in Hyde County and one is at Goose Creek State Park in Beaufort County. The projects will receive a total $2, 080,000 from the state, almost $2 million of which will go to the projects in Hyde County.
The Hyde County projects include $620,000 to purchase two acres to expand waterfront access at Fisherman’s Wharf in Swan Quarter; $1 million to develop and expand the Wanchese Seafood Industrial Park near Engelhard and $260,000 to purchase Cahoon Seafood.
The General Assembly created the $20 million fund last year based on recommendations from the Waterfront Access Study Committee. That committee found rapid development in coastal counties has caused the loss of public waterfront access and has dealt a blow to the state’s traditional maritime industries, particularly commercial fishing.
Interim Hyde County Manager Carl Classen said he and the county’s board of commissioners are “extremely excited” about the funding, which he said may prove to be a life preserver for an industry that is “severely struggling.”
Hyde County’s commercial fishing industry has crumbled in recent years, chipped away at by environmental regulations, smaller catches and fewer markets in which to sell the catch.
Having the state on board the effort to salvage what is left of one of eastern North Carolina’s traditional professions has the potential to keep afloat the waterman way of life, Classen said.
At Goose Creek, park rangers plan to use the money to expand and improve the public facilities and boat ramp at Dinah’s Landing. The ramp is an access point used heavily by recreational boaters and fishermen as well as commercial fishing and crab launches year round, according to park Superintendent Kelley Thompson.
The landing has become even more heavily used since the closing of Whichard’s Beach in summer 2007, according to Thompson. At times, she said cars have been parked along the side of the road for more than a mile. To help alleviate the congestion, Thompson hopes to add at least 20 parking spaces and move the existing road to make it easier to maneuver boats trailers.
The landing was the only inland site funded through WAMI. But the site embodies the goal of the fund — to secure waterfront access sites for public and commercial use in the context of a rapidly developing coastal region.
The expansion of the facilities at Fishermen’s Wharf in Swan Quarter will serve a similar purpose, according to Classen.