Senate approves budget with $15 million for Dare dredge

By on May 31, 2018

The dredge would be similar to the Corps of Engineers’ Murden.

This year’s legislative short session is expected to be about as short as it can get, and passing an adjusted state budget is going to be even shorter in what’s being called an unprecedented move.

The biggest local provision authorizes $15 million from the shallow draft inlet dredging fund to create a partnership between the state and a yet-to-be-identified private company to purchase a hopper dredge, with Dare County paying for its operation in Oregon and Hatteras inlets and other channels.

Republican leaders of the state House and Senate created a conference committee of 40 members, all from the GOP, to hammer out the $23.9 billion spending proposal for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

But using the conference report process shuts off any debate or amendments and only allows up-or-down votes by the various committees, then the full chambers, which has not happened with a budget in modern history.

Democrats say they have been shut out from having any say in the proposal.

Republicans countered that it was not uncommon when Democrats were in the majority for nearly a century that budgets were negotiated behind closed doors , then dropped in the laps of members just hours before a vote.

The dredge funding requires the private company to also pay $15 million for the $30 million dredge and provide work to Dare County at a reduced rate in exchange for a state loan eventually being forgiven.

While Dare would likely be using it the most, the dredge would be available to help clear other waterways along North Carolina’s coastline.

Dredging has crawled to a near halt as federal funding for smaller inlets and harbors has been repeatedly cut by Congress and the White House for decades.

Dare County and North Carolina have since picked up the slack by paying the Army Corps of Engineers to clean out the channels with their limited fleet.

In a formal resolution passed at their May 7 meeting, Dare County commissioners pledged $3,250,000, with $3 million already set aside from an occupancy tax allocation for dredging.

Matching money from the state that would bring the total to $10 million for operation of the dredge over a five-year period and would come from the shallow draft channel fund.

County Manager Bobby Outten said the county will enter an agreement with the private contractor that would give the county almost exclusive use of the dredge.

Concerns have arisen that the dredge would only be used to keep Oregon Inlet open, since $9 million of the county and state funds are allocated to those waters, and the budget bill specifically mentions the Oregon Inlet Task Force would be in charge.

Outten reiterated Tuesday that the dredge will be available to use anywhere in the county and not just Oregon Inlet, and that the task force is made up of members who are more familiar with the needs in the county’s waterways.

Lawmakers plan to carry over from the previous year’s budget $2,219,000 designated for dredging of the Old House Channel, and have designated money for the Coastal Storm Damage Mitigation Fund, which was created but unfunded in the 2017-18 budget.

$5 million will be placed in the fund to be used to help pay for future beach renourishment projects anywhere along the N.C. coast following storms.

After clearing the Senate on Wednesday, the House is expected to approve the budget by the end of the week.

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  • Roy

    Who will pay for the maintenance, upkeep, and operating costs (fuel and wages) of this dredge?

    Scheduled maintenance as well as mandatory shipyard periods, Along with Coast Guard inspections (2 required every 5 years) can quickly add up.

    Unscheduled maintenance such as repairs due to breakdowns are costly too.

    Who will pay the cost of keeping a crew on this vessel? Experienced dredge operators are in demand and cannot be retained if treated as seasonal workers.

    Can Dare County afford this? Will there be more frequent tax increases to cover this dredge?

    Thursday, May 31 @ 5:07 pm
  • Corolla Cat

    Everybody calm down.

    Friday, Jun 1 @ 12:18 am
  • jackie harris

    The unnamed company should pay every thing since they will be paid for all work done in Dare, How they will price it is fairly easy to find out by looking at what Dare has paid in the past. ( They are getting 15 Mil. to help startup)

    Friday, Jun 1 @ 9:08 am
  • OBX Resident

    There are many questionable items that are included in the budget that is awaiting action by Gov. Cooper. The budget was solely drafted by Republican leaders who preach the gospel of limiting big government and reduced spending. I would like to highlight one item.

    Cross Trail Outfitters (CTO) is the recipient in the budget of $250,000 of taxpayer money. The money is coming from the budget for the Department of Health and Human Services, specifically from a pool of money for health projects that also goes to purposes like fighting the opioid epidemic.

    For those that do not know CTO beyond their fancifully wrapped luxury trucks, they are a ‘Christian youth hunting and fishing club (that) work(s) with boys ages 7-20 by sowing into their lives through discipleship and mentorship, helping them to grow closer to God and seeking God first in their lives through a common interest in the outdoors.’

    Let me summarize, they are taking $250K of taxpayer money from a fund to treat opioid addiction, giving it to a religious group that excludes girls, with the purpose of ‘helping them grow closer to God’ through hunting.

    When did this become the responsibility of government? I am a firm believer of religious freedom, and I firmly believe in the First Amendment as paraphrased by Thomas Jefferson, ‘the separation of church and state’. If you allow leaders to do away with the First Amendment, the next one that they will do away with is the Second Amendment, and ‘by golly ain’t it our God given right to take our boys out in fancy camouflaged outfits and makeup with guns to go hunt’in’.

    By the way if you are interested, CTO keeps a kill count on their website. Last year, CTO youth killed 187 big game animals, 884 saltwater fish, 1,969 freshwater fish, 1,003 game birds, and 291 predators/varmints. All in the name of Christ, 4,334 animals/fish were killed. Divided by the $250,000 of public money, each kill in 2018 will cost the taxpayer $57.68, your return is that the youth are closer to God. And this was from money originally allocated to treat opioid addiction. Go figure.

    Friday, Jun 1 @ 4:36 pm