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Wrightsville Beach
Thursday, May 23, 2024

Burr encourages beach towns to raise more funding for renourishment

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While he anticipated some federal funding would remain available, U.S.  Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., told Wrightsville Beach Mayor Bill Blair that coastal communities should plan for more beach renourishment funding in their own budgets in anticipation of a reduction of federal funding.

Burr said that while the federal government, through the Army Corps of Engineers, has a “rich history” of financially participating in beach renourishment, it is sliding on the list of priorities for the corps.

“It’s my hope that in the future there will be available funds,” Burr said. “The coastal communities will have to incorporate in their annual planning a little more. The property owners are going to be required to keep the tourism at the levels that they are at now.”

Burr said with tourism and the beaches being such a driver of the state’s economy, finding a solution for beach renourishment would be a rising priority for state politicians.

“There’s so much of our economy driven off of our coastline, this really has to be a federal, state and local partnership. The sooner we start those discussions, the better off we are,” Burr said. “It probably doesn’t affect summer rentals as much as it does the property values and the ability to sell.”

Blair asked about maintenance for the Intracoastal Waterway. Burr said the waterway is often associated with recreational boating, but in North Carolina commercial industries also heavily use the waterway for transportation.

“In some places, the Intracoastal Waterway has become unusable,” Burr said. “We may need to find some ways to collect some revenues from the Intracoastal Waterway.”

Blair raised concerns with Burr about the Affordable Care Act, which he said would have an impact on the town’s budget as premiums for employees’ health insurance were set to rise.

“It’s putting pressure on a small little town like us,” Blair said.

Burr said the insurance industry is in the second year of a three-year implementation of the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare.  He said North Carolina’s largest insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, has seen a 33 percent increase in premiums and still expects to lose $100 million next year.

“That gives an indication of where 2017 rates will go,” Burr said. “Most of us agree that’s unsustainable.”

He said the bill was badly written and there have been some unintended consequences.

“There will be a continued bipartisan effort to roll back and fix pieces of it,” Burr said of the healthcare law.

Burr met with a handful of local officials Wednesday, Jan. 6 in Wilmington. Meeting attendees included Blair, Carolina Beach Mayor Dan Wilcox, New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chair Beth Dawson and Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous.

Burr faces re-election this year. He has two challengers for the Republican primary in March 2015.

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