Wednesday, September 07, 2005


State agencies limit activities in QAR due to fuel shortage fears


Sun Journal
By Patricia Smith
September 05, 2005

MOREHEAD CITY - The threat of a fuel shortage has siphoned activities by state agencies on the coast.

A diving expedition planned to start this week on the shipwreck believed to be that of the pirate Blackbeard's flagship has been postponed indefinitely.

"We're just waiting until the fuel crisis resolves itself," said Chris Southerly, archaeologist and field supervisor with the Queen Anne's Revenge Project.

The divers had planned to use the Division of Marine Fisheries motorized barge Shellpoint for a two-week dive to recover more artifacts from the site, but got word that the vessel was docked under orders from Gov. Mike Easley, Southerly said.

The Governor's Office of State Budget and Management put out a directive to state agencies last week limiting all non-essential state government travel until Sept. 15.

For Marine Fisheries, that means no vessels leave the dock except for Marine Patrol boats, said division Director Preston Pate.

"Everything else, we're on hold," Pate said.

All sampling programs and other routine field work has been delayed, Pate said. And a Sea Turtle Advisory Committee meeting scheduled for Tuesday in Washington, N.C., was canceled.

Routine activities at the Division of Coastal Management have also been curtailed, said division Director Charles Jones.

"We're basically not traveling," Jones said.

That means anyone seeking a minor Coastal Area Management Act permit to build something like a dock will have to wait for an on-site inspection, he said.

The agency's policy-making arm, the Coastal Resources Commission, is also looking at fuel-saving modifications to its meeting that was scheduled for Sept. 14-16 in Kill Devil Hills.

The board had planned a joint field trip with its advisory council.

"The CRC is considering compressing the meeting to a one-day meeting which would be relocated from the northern part of the state to a more central location," Jones said.

The shortened agenda would eliminate the necessity for the advisory council to attend, but still allow the commission to hear variance requests within a strict timeframe under CAMA rules.

"The variances, of course, are something that they are required to hear," Jones said.

As for the Blackbeard dive, Southerly said the QAR Project hopes to reschedule the event for later in the month, or possibly in October.

Dive Down, an educational program to allow recreational divers to see the QAR site, is still scheduled to begin Sept. 18, Southerly said. The program is independently funded outside of state government.


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