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The Coastal Resources Commission in February is expected to re-examine a proposal to lift a hazard designation for Mad Inlet near Sunset Beach.
Mad Inlet closed naturally in 1997, ending a watery separation between the Sunset Beach island and Bird Island, and is not expected to re-open, according to a news release issued Oct. 31 by the North Carolina Department of Environmental and Natural Resources.
The members of the CRC’s science panel on coastal hazards cited this as the reason they recommend removing the hazard designation. If their recommendation is followed, it would lift restrictions on development. Mike Lopazanski, policy and planning section chief for the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management, cited 126 properties in the area, where fewer than 10 are undeveloped and would no longer be required to adhere to inlet hazard rules if the change is approved.
Since then, CRC has received more than 35 comment letters, with more on the way, all voicing opposition to the recommendation.
Braxton Davis, director of the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management, said the letters question the scientific basis for removing the designation, along with expressing concerns about insurance, the large tract that could be developed, turtles and their habitat, the impact on Bird Island, and changes in character for Sunset Beach, whose town council members unanimously approved a resolution opposing the removal of the designation.
About a month earlier, Sunset Beach developer Ed Gore spoke in favor of lifting the inlet hazard designation for Mad Inlet. He said it is appropriate, citing accreting sand there that he thinks will continue. Sammy Varnam also spoke on behalf of Gore at the hearing.
Their claims were disputed, however, by the other residents who attended the Nov. 6 standing-room-only session led by the state Coastal Management Division. Mike Giles, coastal advocate with the North Carolina Coastal Federation, for one, said Mad Inlet is like a ticking time bomb that has the potential to blow open and affect flood zones.
The matter will be discussed during the CRC’s next meeting Feb. 26-27 in Nags Head.
We see nothing left to discuss, however. The overwhelming majority of residents who would be affected by the Mad Inlet designation change do not want it because of the range of problems it could create.
Ultimately, it is their opinion that should matter most to an agency that is meant to be working on their behalf to preserve the environment.