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  • North Topsail Beach mayor testifies before a House natural resources subcommittee

  • North Topsail Beach Mayor Daniel Tuman testified earlier this month before a House Natural Resources subcommittee in support of H.R. 187.
  • North Topsail Beach Mayor Daniel Tuman testified earlier this month before a House Natural Resources subcommittee in support of H.R. 187. The Town of North Topsail Beach has been working with Congressman Walter B. Jones (and Senator Kay Hagan who has introduced a companion bill in the Senate) to correct a decades-old federal mapping error that wrongly prohibited a significant portion of North Topsail Beach from accessing the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and other Federal programs. In 1982, the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) enacted to discourage development of previously undeveloped U.S. coastal areas incorrectly classified most of the northern part of North Topsail Beach as undeveloped, thus making the area ineligible to access the NFIP. Congressman Jones bill would replace the existing CBRA map with an accurate one.
    Mayor Tuman testified that the Town previously submitted sufficient evidence to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service showing that the town had already been residentially zoned and platted by Onslow County, was under development, and had a full complement of infrastructure in the ground prior to its erroneous inclusion in the Coastal Barrier Resource System (CBRS). Tuman emphasized that H.R. 187 follows the letter of the CBRA statute and accounts for areas of North Topsail Beach that were found by two federal government agencies to have been developed prior to the mapping. He stated, My testimony is not about the healthy debate over human habitation of coastal barriers, the environmental impact of coastal barrier development, or the wisdom of shoreline protection and beach nourishment. My testimony and H.R. 187 is about the fair, equitable, and proper application of the Coastal Barrier Resources Act.
    The subcommittee hearing was the next step in the process to bring the bill to the House floor for a vote. The subcommittee adjourned after Chairman John Fleming stated that there may be more questions from the subcommittee members.
    Prepared Statement of Mayor Daniel Tuman before the House Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs H.R. 187
    April 8, 2014
    Mr. Chairman and members of this distinguished Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to
    provide you with factual information in support of H.R. 187. Together with its Senate counterpart, S.
    533, this bill corrects technical errors made in the original 1982 mapping and subsequent 1990
    additions to the Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS) unit L06 (North Topsail Beach). In
    implementing the Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service mistakenly designated some of the northern
    end of North Topsail Beach as a CBRA zone. H.R. 187 and our proposed revisions to the CBRS unit L06
    will correct this erroneous designation while keeping the number of acres in the unit constant.
    North Topsail Beach is a family oriented beach town. It was incorporated as a Town in 1990. We are
    Page 2 of 5 - located between the Cities of Jacksonville NC and Wilmington NC. We are a rural area adjacent to a
    Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, and many of our residents, property owners and day visitors have a
    military connection. We are on Topsail Island which is a barrier island that has 26 miles of shoreline.
    Topsail Island is home to three very popular and easily reached beach towns, North Topsail Beach to the
    north, Surf City in the middle, and Topsail Beach to the south. Topsail Island is accessible by two bridges.
    A swing‐bridge provides access to Surf City. North Topsail Beach is accessible from the mainland by way
    of highway NC210 and a causeway, the Larry Walton Memorial Bridge. This bridge, built in the 1968, is a
    very large structure, provides convenient access to Topsail Island and is responsible, in part, for the
    island‐wide development of Topsail Island.
    The main issue plaguing North Topsail Beach is its erroneous inclusion into the CBRSs unit L06. As you
    know, CBRS areas are defined as any undeveloped coastal barrier. Thus, to be included in the CBRS,
    an area must be undeveloped. In contrast to the statute, unit L06 was already residentially zoned and
    platted by Onslow County, under development, and had a full complement of infrastructure in the
    ground prior to its erroneous inclusion in the CBRS. If the intent of the John H Chafee Coastal Barrier
    Resources Act was to identify and include undeveloped coastal areas within its restrictions to discourage
    development, then the inclusion of unit L06 was an error from Day One.
    The presence of CBRS within North Topsail Beach is a hardship for owners of property in our area and a
    financial burden for our Town. While most of the northern 7.25 miles of the Town are within CBRS,
    there are pockets or small areas within this total area that are not. This has created numerous problems
    for various property owners and their insurers and mortgage agents as to whether they are in or out of
    the CBRS boundary and qualify or dont qualify for NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program). Since most
    mortgage companies and banks require the purchasers of property to also purchase flood insurance,
    prospective buyers and sellers have had problems that sometimes never get resolved. Furthermore,
    private flood insurance can be available at a very high price or may not be available at all. USFW maps
    have not always clearly delineated the actual boundary lines and USFW has reported the need to draw
    accurate maps and has asked Congress to fund this work. The Town has heard numerous stories from
    Page 3 of 5 - owners who cant sell their property because private flood insurance was either not available or because
    it was so too expensive for potential buyers. For example, North Topsail Beach pays $33,000 in private
    flood insurance premiums for its town hall which is a very modest building. Local insurance agents have
    estimated that our premiums would be less than $10,000 under NFIP.
    In addition, there is a stigma related to CBRS. On the part of some people and groups there is the belief
    that residing within a CBRS designated area is a hazard to both property and human life. Although there
    is nothing in our local history that can offered as evidence that would support this notion, or anything in
    the information that is compiled by the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management that could
    differentiate one part of the town from the other, the thought still exists among some. Consequently,
    this attitude has caused division within the town on future plans and expenditures. Outside our town,
    this has fostered the belief that with living on barrier islands, others are paying higher taxes to insure
    and subsidize our frivolous lifestyle. To refute this claim, FEMA has told us and others that the coastal
    NFIP program in North Carolina is a money maker not loser. We believe that, with the required building
    codes and shoreline protection policy, disasters of the magnitude that occurred with Hurricane Sandy
    can be avoided.
    The Town of North Topsail Beach has done extensive research to document the prior development of
    the area. In essence, we did the research that the Fish and Wildlife Service said it did not have the time
    or money to do, and we provided our substantial report to that agency in August of 2009 and
    subsequently to this Subcommittee and its Senate counterpart. Among the facts we uncovered was
    a 1983 finding by NOAAs Office of Ocean and Coastal Risk Management that roads, a sewage
    treatment plant and plans for residential development were already in place as far back as 1978. In
    addition, a 1988 Department of the Interior Environmental Statement concluded that substantial
    public infrastructure (e.g. roads and utility lines) already existed at the time the units were placed in
    the CBRS.” The dates of these conclusions are significant since one pre‐dates the original CBRA
    designation and the other is prior to the modifications to the CBRS maps in 1990. It was in that year
    that the Coastal Barrier Resources Act was amended to give Congress, and not the Fish & Wildlife
    Service, the authority to make changes made to CBRA maps. What was called the 1990 Coastal
    Page 4 of 5 - Barrier Improvement Act allowed for a conservation area within the boundaries of an area
    established under Federal, State or local law to be designated as an Other Protected Area (OPA).
    As a result, the Service added new sections of conservation lands within System Unit L06 but
    erroneously failed to designate these areas as OPA. Additional areas of North Topsail Beach that
    were previously validated by USFWS in 1982 as developed were also erroneously added to the
    System. The 2000 Coastal Barrier Reauthorization Act (CBRRA) codified the criteria used to assess
    the level of infrastructure when undeveloped coastal barriers are recommended for inclusion
    in the System, and for reviewing a units development status at the time of inclusion.
    H.R. 187 creates a new map for CBRS Unit L06. We propose that this new map removes 659 residentially
    developed acres, 1.0 square miles, of North Topsail Beach from the CBRS designation. 2155 acres of
    undeveloped and environmentally sensitive lands, North Topsail Beachs Conservation District, remain
    within CBRS Unit L06 and are reclassified as OPA (Otherwise Protected Areas). To offset the this land
    removed from the CBRS zone and keep the unit L06 at 6,043.5 acres, the Town also recommends
    expanding the boundaries of L06 to include the entire Town of North Topsail Beach (3929 acres) and
    proposes adding 659 new acres to CBRS. Consequently, the total L06 CBRS acreage of 2,814 remains
    unchanged with this legislation.
    Our proposal of no net loss of CBRA acreage is another example of our Towns commitment to be a
    responsible custodian of the environmentally fragile areas within its boundaries. We are indeed proud
    of the policies and ordinances that control these areas. Of the 3929.0 total acres within North Topsail
    Beach, 2,565.0 acres, 65% of the towns land area, are classified as Conservation District. This district is
    established to protect the floodplain, coastal waters and areas of environmental concern under the
    North Carolina Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA). No residential development is allowed in this
    area for both environmental and future sea level rise concerns. Residential development is only
    permitted along the immediate higher elevation shoreline, with vegetative buffer zones isolating the
    residential areas from the lower elevation, environmentally sensitive Conservation District along the
    sound‐side of the island.
    In conclusion, this request is very important to all of us assembled here and there is something very
    important at stake. Our affected citizens and property owners need to be told that finally they are being
    treated fairly and equitably under the Law.
    Thank you Ladies and Gentlemen. On behalf of the Town of North Topsail Beach, I urge you to approve
    Page 5 of 5 - H.R. 187.
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