Monday, November 28, 2011

FEDS eye wild ponies of Chincoteague...Town fears drastic new erosion rules will destroy island town, economy...


FEDS eye wild ponies of Chincoteague...
- Washington Post ◼ image source: AP

In a new plan to deal with beach erosion and prepare for sea-level rise, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed changes that the mayor, the chamber of commerce and homeowners say would eventually drive away summer tourism and drive down the economy that depends on it. Some of those changes would involve closing the beach and its parking lot, then opening a beach with parking farther away and shuttling tourists.

Town leaders say vacationers won’t board shuttles with all their beach stuff — umbrellas, chairs and food. They’ll bypass Chincoteague for Ocean City, where hotels sit near the water....

Chincoteague doesn’t control its beach. It’s part of the Assateague Island National Seashore, run by the federal National Park Service, and sits within the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, controlled by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Charged with protecting endangered animals and managing the refuge on a shrinking budget, the Fish and Wildlife Service ar­gued in a 15-year comprehensive refuge plan that it can’t save the beach and its parking lot from the unrelenting forces of nature.

More than 100 yards of shoreline has been lost to the Atlantic Ocean since the mid-1960s, said Louis Hinds, the refuge manager. A federal visitors center has been moved twice from rising waters. And if cars didn’t occupy the 8.5-acre parking lot, piping plovers, an endangered shorebird the refuge protects, would nest there.

The changes facing Chincoteague are coming to coastal communities across the nation. In Hampton Roads, planning commissions are preparing for the day, 30 to 50 years from now, when sea-level rise reshapes the coast, and a few landowners are resisting.

At the core of the debate in Chincoteague are questions of fairness....

No comments: