County Commissioners Hear Update On Inlet Economic Study

County Commissioners Hear Update On Inlet Economic Study Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 17 September 2014 00:00

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Inlet Association presented an economic impact study to the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners at their September 15th, meeting.
The Board of Commissioners also approved using hotel room occupancy tax revenues collected in the unincorporated areas of the County for maintenance of area inlets including Carolina Beach Inlet.
Former Carolina Beach Mayor Dennis Barbour and member of the Inlet Association explained they have been working with local, state and federal leaders to, "Try to help come up with the funding to continue to maintain our local Carolina Beach navigation channels since federal funding no longer exists. It started drying up back in 2005. Earmarks through Congress were able to keep our funding alive until earmarks were kind of killed so we are kind of left out on our own."
Barbour said the efforts of the Inlet Association were instrumental, "In getting the bill passed last year that put in place the fifty-fifty state matching fund for those navigation channels meeting those requirements."
He said, "The challenge now for we here in New Hanover County is to determine how we are going to come up with the 50% matching funds. We are not going to get into that today but the Carolina Beach Inlet Association is working very hard to give you the commissioners what you need to be able to understand and make the best decisions possible on how to get to where we need to go as far as inlet maintenance."
The Inlet Association recently commissioned Dr. Chris Dumas, Economics Professor at the UNCW Cameron School of Business to update a 2007 economic impact study for Carolina Beach Inlet navigability. 
Dumas explained a study of The Economic Impacts of Carolina Beach Inlet (CBI) Navigability was conducted in the spring of 2014 by economists at UNC-Wilmington and Appalachian State University.
The study considered direct economic impacts to commercial fishing, seafood markets/dealers, charter boats, head boats, private fishing boats, and also economic multiplier effects on boatyards, fuel suppliers, hotels, restaurants, etc.
As of 2012, CBI commercial fishery landings amounted to 158,342 pounds per year, valued at $290,762.  These landings supported 20 commercial fishing vessels, 20 commercial fisher persons, and 193 commercial fishing vessel trips per year.
Commercial fishery landings support an additional $406,000/yr in sales by seafood markets/dealers in New Hanover County. 
Based on a 2009 study, the 47 charter vessels accessing the Atlantic Ocean via CBI service over 16,000 angler-day trips/year, directly supporting 84 charter captain and crew jobs.  Two head boats support over 20,000 additional angler-day trips/year, directly supporting an additional 16 captain and crew jobs.
For charter and head boat anglers using CBI to access the ocean, 58 percent were North Carolina residents, and 42 percent were out-of-state residents (from 28 other states).  These data indicate that a substantial proportion of CBI charter and head boat anglers are from out of state.
Among those charter and head boat anglers using CBI, 63 percent of NC residents said that would not have visited the local area if charter/head boat fishing were not available, while 36 percent of non-NC residents said that they would not have visited the local area if charter/head boat fishing were not available.
Of the NC residents using CBI in the 2009 study, 21 percent were from New Hanover County, with the remaining NC residents coming from 42 other North Carolina counties.
Of the 49 New Hanover County resident anglers using CBI in the 2009 study, 7 (14%) were from Carolina Beach, and 42 (86%) were from other areas within New Hanover County.  These survey results (albeit based on a limited sample size) indicate that most New Hanover County residents using CBI to access Atlantic Ocean fishing reside outside Carolina Beach itself. 
Data from 2011 indicate that 29,491 private boat ocean fishing angler trips were made by North Carolina residents using CBI, and an additional 933 angler trips were made by non-NC residents, for a total of 30,424 private boat angler trips using CBI.
At an estimated $750,000/year in maintenance costs to fully maintain the inlet, each dollar spent on inlet maintenance would support an additional $35 in sales/output within New Hanover county beyond the sales that would occur with an essentially closed inlet. 
Each dollar spent on inlet maintenance returns $0.93 in state and local taxes, and $1.33 in federal taxes, beyond the taxes collected with an essentially closed inlet.
Dumas explained, "Even in its current degraded condition the inlet supports a lot of economic activity. An estimated $68 million dollars in sales within the county. Estimated employment of 493, and supports $3.1 million in state and local taxes per year and $3.9 million in federal taxes. If the inlet were fully maintained in improved conditions, the sales would go up from $68 million to the $76 million and
employment from 493 to 584 jobs supported. If the inlet were allowed to shoal and fully close, the sales would drop from $68 million supported to $49 million supported and employment from 493 to 353."
Dumas explained, "You don't lose all of the sales or employment economic impact if the inlet closes because some of those trips are made in other inlets in the county and they are substitution of other activities in the county."
Last year the Board of Commissioners approved funding for dredging of the inlet along with funds approved from other local governments including Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach and Kure Beach.
At Monday's meeting the Commissioners approved a memorandum of Understanding with the Tourism Development Authority for the use of "Second Three Percent Room Occupancy Tax Collected in the Unincorporated Area" of the County.
The North Carolina Legislature approved a bill earlier this year that would permit room occupancy tax funds collected from hotels and motels in the unincorporated areas of the County to be used for inlet dredging. Prior to that bill, room tax funds collected in those areas of the county were dedicated for beach nourishment. However, the County had no federally authorized projects in the unincorporated areas of the County for use of those funds.
The intent of the memorandum of understanding is to fund a portion of the matching state dollars for Carolina Beach Inlet, but also to allow the Board to approve funds for Mason Inlet even though it currently lacks federal or state funding and to also allow the Board to approve funds for Masonboro Inlet in the event it loses federal funding in the future.
The Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the memorandum.


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