Bald Head Island joins opposition of new port - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Bald Head Island joins opposition of new port

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Posted by Heather Setzler - bio|email

BALD HEAD ISLAND, NC (WECT) - The controversy surrounding a proposed new international container port in North Carolina continues, with Bald Head Island joining the opposition.

The No Port Southport group has already been outspoken in its efforts to prevent the new port from being built.

The proposed facility would be located on a 600-acre site south of Progress Energy's Brunswick Nuclear Plant.

Opponents are afraid the port would be harmful to the environment.  Proponents says the port would bring in jobs and economic growth.  To learn more about the project, click here.

Below is a news release sent out Monday explaining the position of the Bald Head Island Village Council:

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The Village Council of Bald Head Island (BHI) unanimously voted this past Friday to oppose the development of the North Carolina International Terminal (NCIT) and is requesting that no further taxpayer monies be allocated to this project.

The Village Council of BHI's opposition to the NCIT represents a broad spectrum of citizens who own property in an environmentally unique area on a barrier island with state-owned public beaches. More than 98 percent of the 2,200 property owners expressed opposition to this project amid concerns regarding the ecological damage that has already been caused by a previous channel expansion and will be exacerbated by the NCIT project.

"BHI has an irreplaceable habitat, including rare sea turtles, Plover birds and SeaBeach Amaranth plant species, that is worth saving," BHI Mayor J. Andrew Sayre said. "Not to mention all of the homes and public infrastructure we've built over the years."

Even before 2000 when the state of North Carolina and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) started the expansion of the navigation channel serving the Port of Wilmington, BHI had been severely damaged by accelerated beach and protective shoal erosion. Documented damage includes adverse environmental impact on the unique area ecologies, habitat loss, and permanent loss of Island infrastructure, public beaches and private property. This on-going damage has yet to be fully investigated and controlled either by the USACE or the state, the sponsor of the navigation channel work done a decade ago.

Mitigation programs promised by the USACE and the State of North Carolina in conjunction with the 2000 expansion of the navigation channel have not been funded or completed. To remediate the channel erosion, the Village of BHI, entirely at its taxpayers' expense, was required to undertake an almost $17 million beach renourishment project, which recently concluded in April 2010.

The $5 million committed to this project by the N.C. Division of Water Resources was ultimately removed from the 2009-2010 state budget. The federal government has also not allocated any funds for the USACE-scheduled 2010-1011 maintenance dredging of the channel, which would provide sand to BHI under the Channel Project's Sand Management Plan. 

Further expansion of the navigation channel is certain to intensify the rate and extent of the damage to BHI and its unique ecosystems, as well as to the thousands of acres of adjacent natural areas under the care and protection of state and federal authorities. The environmental impacts are beyond quantification and not realistically capable of mitigation. Increased light, air, sound and water pollution, as well as severe security issues at the adjacent Brunswick Nuclear Power Plant and Sunny Point Military Ocean Terminal, would result from the NCIT. The highly desirable natural resource-based recreation, tourism, and retirement nature of the Brunswick County coast would be lost forever to the citizens of North Carolina.

BHI fully supports the need to create additional jobs in North Carolina – sustainable jobs that are cost effective for North Carolina taxpayers but a newer, bigger port on the same river will not dramatically improve North Carolina's struggling economy. The Cape Fear River is a shallow water river made deep by the USACE in order to accommodate larger and larger ocean-going ships and this approach may have already passed the point of realistic economic viability or positive return.

The overall cost and risk of such a venture to state taxpayers is simply not appropriate and not affordable. Not only is the capital outlay for infrastructure, the new navigation channel, and the terminal structure huge, but the "hidden costs" of the indicated damage to fisheries, wetlands and the environment; increased security risks; lost tourism and recreational economic contributions; the health costs resulting from air and water pollution will be significant and have not been addressed.

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