New report says maintenance is critical to Carolina Beach Inlet - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

New report says maintenance is critical to Carolina Beach Inlet

According to the study published by the Carolina Beach Inlet Association, the Carolina Beach Inlet brings in millions of dollars through seafood, recreational activities and tourism. According to the study published by the Carolina Beach Inlet Association, the Carolina Beach Inlet brings in millions of dollars through seafood, recreational activities and tourism.
NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) -

A new report outlines what New Hanover County and the state stand to lose if Carolina Beach Inlet is not maintained.

Right now the county is out of money to put into that project. Some local fishermen are concerned they may have to shut down if they can't get through those waters.

According to the study published by the Carolina Beach Inlet Association, the Carolina Beach Inlet brings in millions of dollars through seafood, recreational activities and tourism.

Officials will present the findings to local and state representatives on August 5, hoping the information will lead to a long-term plan to keep that inlet passable.

"We all live and die by getting out of that inlet," Captain Robert Schoonmaker said. "Right now it's really safe and we're glad the county and state have come together and got some short term funds to keep it open but we're thinking long term to secure some long term funding to keep it dredged and safe for everybody."

On the micro level, inlet conditions affect fishermen, but on the macro level, North Carolina brings in tax revenue affected by changes in the activities of the fishing and boating sectors.

That means a total loss of nearly $70 million if Carolina Beach Inlet is not maintained, according to Schoonmaker.

"Recreationally only about 14 percent of the anglers going in and out of Carolina Beach inlet are from Carolina Beach," Schoonmaker said. "The other 86 percent come from everywhere else within New Hanover County. Then, we have a lot of out-of-state visitors that come in and use our inlet as well and those are tax dollars generated that we wouldn't get unless the inlet was there."

Historically, inlet dredging projects have been funded by the federal government. However, that cash flow stopped a few years ago, leaving the state and New Hanover County to work together to come up with the funds.

"There's a lot of money at stake here" Schoonmaker said. "In the past somebody else has taken care of it, meaning the federal government, now it's time for us to step up and take care of it ourselves."

The state and county have been working on an emergency basis, only paying for dredging when it's absolutely needed. However, the Carolina Beach Inlet Association wants to see those dredging projects happen on a maintenance schedule, not waiting for the inlet to get to its worst point before doing something about it.

Schoonmaker says a long-term plan is needed to make sure that happens. He wants to see New Hanover County put the funds into their budget at the beginning of the fiscal year, rather than scrambling to come up with the cash when the inlet reaches emergency status.

It won't be up to the county alone though. The state has set aside money in their Shallow Draft Inlet Fund and will match the dollar amount New Hanover County is able to come pull together. Schoonmaker estimates that the inlet project will cost about $800,000 per year.

Copyright 2014 WECT. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly