"We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day." - Edith Lovejoy Pierce
Social distancing and remote work brings challenges and opportunities. Many of us spent a lot of time last year enjoying our coast as a way to de-stress-- literally immersed in its waters and beauty. Time spent on our coast gave us a way to get out of the house, exercise, and spend socially-distanced time with friends and family.
In 2021, a new collaboration called North Carolina Coastal Habitat Coalition provides a way for you to get more involved in planning and promoting a healthy future for our coast. You can help protect and restore vibrant coastal resources that serve as critical habitat for fish and shellfish populations, improve water quality, absorb greenhouse gasses, and buffers to coastal areas from storm surge and sea level rise. As North Carolinians, we are all stakeholders of these public trust coastal resources. Together, we’ll seek to develop and carry out effective conservation measures through the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Coastal Habitat Protection Plan (CHPP) and the North Carolina Coastal Federation’s NC Oyster Blueprint. We are gearing up for a big year of education, engagement, and collaboration in support of North Carolina’s coast.
Who we are and why we're here
The integrity and resilience of coastal resources are too easily lost without vigilance and advocacy. The health of our coast depends on stewardship provided by its residents to whom all of these coastal resources belong. Economic development and healthy coastal ecosystems are not mutually exclusive. In fact, vibrant and productive coastal ecosystems support well paid jobs and enhance social well being. Our coastal economy and the opportunities awaiting visitors rely on a healthy environment to thrive. That's why The Pew Charitable Trusts and the North Carolina Coastal Federation are kicking off the North Carolina Coastal Habitat Coalition campaign to bring together many partners to find workable, common sense solutions and policies that better protect and restore vital coastal resources. Throughout 2021, we will share stories about how coastal habitats impact our lives and livelihoods. We’ll also provide updates on public meetings, connect different partners who may not know about each other but should, and help find opportunities to engage more stakeholders in the 2021 updates to the CHPP and NC Oyster Blueprint.
What is the CHPP?
North Carolina's fisheries have declined in recent decades. In response, Governor Jim Hunt signed the Fisheries Reform Act was approved in 1997, which laid the groundwork for Fishery Management Plans. But fisheries cannot survive without healthy fish habitat. As a result, the Act also called for the creation of the Coastal Habitat Protection Plan to protect and restore fish habitat.
The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) updates the CHPP every five years. The CHPP looks at the threats associated with the six coastal habitats: water column, shell bottom, submerged aquatic vegetation (also known as seagrass or underwater grasses), wetlands, hard bottom, and soft bottom. For this five year review, the 2021 CHPP Amendment takes a deep dive into submerged aquatic vegetation, or seagrass protection and restoration, wetlands protection and enhancement, environmental rule compliance to protect habitat, reducing inflow and infiltration associated with wastewater infrastructure, and habitat monitoring to assess status and regulatory effectiveness. It will recommend how to protect healthy habitat, address ongoing habitat degradation, and restore the diverse mosaic of coastal landscapes that provide a wealth of ecological, economic, and social benefits. Even although the CHPP is focused on resources like seagrass, wetlands, and oysters for their value as habitat, these have other values such as fisheries production, water quality enhancement, carbon sequestration, storm surge and shoreline erosion buffering, making the CHPP a critical planning tool for anyone living, working, or spending time in coastal NC.
The CHPP Process
The Department of Environmental Quality is currently working to update the CHPP with partners like the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership (APNEP) and is holding public meetings with the CHPP Steering Committee throughout 2021. The CHPP Steering Committee is made up of two members from the Coastal Resources Commission, the Marine Fisheries Commission, and the Environmental Management Commission. The final draft of the CHPP must be approved by a majority of each commission’s membership. A final decision on approval is anticipated the fourth quarter of 2021.
We'll be monitoring the CHPP closely, bringing together stakeholders, and raising awareness. Join our listserv and follow us on facebook and instagram to get updates on the CHPP and coastal habitat. Reach out if you're a coastal stakeholder and you'd like to get involved or have a story to tell.
What is the NC Oyster Blueprint?
North Carolina’s once abundant oyster populations have declined over the past century as a result of water pollution, overharvesting, habitat loss, and disease. For almost two decades, a diverse group of people involved in growing, harvesting, studying, managing and eating oysters has voluntarily and productively worked together to protect and restore N.C.’s oyster habitats and fishery. This collaboration led to the Oyster Blueprint: an oyster restoration and protection action plan for North Carolina. Since 2003, the Oyster Blueprint has succeeded in tens of millions of dollars in investments toward oyster-related restoration, watershed management and research programs.
The NC Oyster Blueprint process
The Oyster Blueprint is updated every five years. The next interaction of the Blueprint is expected in 2021. To stay updated on the 2021 Oyster Blueprint, be sure to subscribe to NC Oysters listersev at NCoysters.org and follow NC Oysters on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to working together for a healthy NC coast this year!