Communities along the North Carolina coast turn to beach nourishment as a way to deal with shoreline erosion. Now, there’s a new approach that speeds up the review of beach nourishment projects and their impact on wildlife.
A biological opinion is a document that states the opinion of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as to whether an activity is likely to jeopardize the existence of threatened or endangered species.
“An individual biological opinion for a project may take as long as 135 days to issue.”
Fish and Wildlife Biologist Kathy Matthews says a project approved for coverage under the new Statewide Programmatic Biological Opinion for Sand Placement may be approved in less than 30 days. The SPBO was created by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to standardize the approach of assessing impacts to wildlife from sand placement projects and then mitigating those impacts. It covers eight threatened and endangered species, including two shorebirds, a plant and five species of sea turtles.
“Local governments typically will work through the federal agency to get coverage under the SPBO. So for example, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers typically writes permits for beach sand placement or FEMA might fund a dune reconstruction project.”
Matthews says the federal agency coordinates with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service during the permitting and funding process and local communities must ensure that they can comply with the SPBO requirements once a sand placement project is started.