COUNTY GOVERNMENT AND the Crystal Coast Chamber of Commerce are opposing a proposal to expand the boundaries of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary (MNMS), because there are “too many uncertainties with the proposal.”
In its formal resolution dated March 21, the Carteret County Board of Commissioners told the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that its plan is “vague and silent relating to regulatory requirements associated with four models outlined.”
The Carteret County Chamber of Commerce also submitted formal comments on this issue, noting that NOAA fails to justify why an expansion is necessary, said Chamber President Mike Wagoner.
The MNMS was designated as the nation’s first marine sanctuary in 1975 and was designed to protect the wreck of the Civil War ironclad USS MONITOR, located approximately 16 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras. Presently, the sanctuary consists of a water column 1 mile in diameter surrounding the shipwreck extending from the seafloor to the sea surface.
NOAA’s stated objectives are “to conserve, protect and enhance biodiversity, ecological integrity and cultural legacy” of each of its 13 marine sanctuaries, which is all well and good, Wagoner said. “We don’t believe expanding the MNMS boundaries is part of NOAA’s charge.”
The most aggressive of the four models being considered would expand the sanctuary to include three separate designated areas located near Cape Lookout, Cape Hatteras and Nags Head. It encompasses large geographic swaths of the seafloor and would result in massive water columns.
Wagoner said: “The unidentified regulations that would be forthcoming could negatively impact the commercial and recreational fishing industries, recreational boating, the SCUBA industry, dredging, sand and gravel extraction and future mariculture opportunities.”
“Until NOAA can quantify the economic benefits for commercial and recreational fishermen, divers, boaters, beachgoers and other tourists, the vhamber will oppose expansion of sanctuary boundaries.
“The chamber contends that perhaps NOAA has failed to perform due diligence and has not established a credible rationale for expansion. Moreover, there is no apparent plan in place for the future.
“Furthermore, the question remains: How will all this impact military and civilian use of airspace? The nation’s security depends on allowing American warfighters to perform training maneuvers off the coast of North Carolina.”