Like other coastal states, North Carolina has seen increased interest in offshore oil and gas drilling, offshore wind turbines, and aquaculture farms – all industries that could have significant effects on the state’s coastal waters.
These emerging issues signaled a need for North Carolina to review its ocean policy structure and to devise policy options to ensure the state is prepared to meet future challenges. In 2008, the Ocean Policy Steering Committee was established to identify emerging environmental, legal and policy issues associated with the use and development of ocean resources in North Carolina’s coastal ocean waters and in adjacent federal waters. The 14-member committee released a set of recommendations for managing North Carolina’s coastal waters.
The OPSC was comprised of academics (Duke, UNC Law, UNCW, NC State, ECU), NC Sea Grant, state (DMF, DWQ), federal (MMS) and local representatives, non-profits and other stakeholders. The committee focused on the following five issues:
Sand Resource Management – As major storm events, climate change and sea level rise continue to shape our coastal beaches, North Carolina will experience an increased need for beach nourishment projects along the oceanfront. There are questions regarding access to sand resources as well as their availability, and there may also be increased pressures to mine inlet shoals for sand resources as well as concerns about the erosive characteristics of the inlets themselves.
Ocean-Based Renewable Energy and Alternative Energy Facility Siting – Recent months have seen the lifting of the moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling, and increased interest in exploring alternative energies such as wind, wave and tidal energy. Wind energy especially has gained momentum and is likely the first alternative energy technology that will be proposed for N.C. waters.
Ocean Outfalls and Alternate Water Treatment Methods – As coastal communities continue to grow, there will likely be an increased need for drinking water and wastewater disposal.
Open Ocean Aquaculture – Fish farming, as a supplement to marine fisheries, has seen increased interest as well.
Comprehensive Ocean Management – Our continued dependence on the many resources provided by our coastal and ocean waters will lead to increased user conflicts in the future.