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Get those grades up

By Staff
The 2008 report card for the North Carolina coast includes a mix of grades, with an average grade of “C+” for overall efforts.
The report card, issued Wednesday, is an annual evaluation of the state’s coastal areas by the North Carolina Beach, Inlet and Waterway Association. The report card provides the association’s grades for each of five areas of concern — beaches, inlets, Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, public access to beaches and public access to coastal waters.
Last year, the association awarded an overall grade of “B-” to elected and appointed coastal stewards.
For the beaches category, the NCBIWA posted an “incomplete.” The inlets category received a “D.” Receiving a “C” was the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway category. The report card included a “B” for public access to beaches. An “A” was given to public access to coastal waters.
The 2008 report card “points to the need for reliable, dependable funding to maintain a viable coastal infrastructure to safeguard commercial and recreational assets and to ensure coastal tourism continues to bring its huge economic benefits to the whole state,” according to an NCBIWA press release.
It’s comforting to know that an organization like NCBIWA exists and works to protect the state’s coastal resources and infrastructure. With tourism along the state’s coastal areas a major contributor to the state’s economy, the coastal areas need protection.
As evident from the grades in the report card, there’s good news and bad news.
The General Assembly was recognized for approving a $20 million waterfront access and marine industry fund, garnering the “A” for public access to coastal waters.
The report card tells state leaders the state has all but failed to “sustain important shallow draft inlets, receiving an unsatisfactory grade of ‘D’ for the low performance, despite individual Herculean efforts by many,” according to the release.
This issue is important because it’s directly tied to boater safety. It’s also important from an economic standpoint.
Without the dredging of inlets, those inlets become more and more difficult for boaters and recreational and commercial fishermen to navigate. The more problematic it becomes to navigate those inlets, the more likely boaters and commercial fishermen will go elsewhere to find easier access from inland waters to ocean waters. North Carolina does not need to lose any type of boating traffic to other states because it will not spend the money required to keep its inlets open and safe.
If the N.C. House of Representatives concurs with a bill approved by the state Senate last year, the “incomplete” for the beaches category likely will be removed. That bill allows a pilot project to help restored beaches at inlets last longer.
If the House agrees to let the pilot project proceed, it’s possible the final grade in the beaches category could pull the overall grade up to a “B.”
North Carolina should not be satisfied until its coastal report card contains no grade lower than an “A+” and its coastal areas are well-protected and prepared for the population growth that’s coming to those areas.