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Strengthening our Coast


Location: Unknown

We in Southeastern North Carolina are blessed to claim some of the nation's most spectacular coastline as home. The beautiful beaches of our coast are indeed treasured natural resources, and the communities of the coast are inextricably tied to tourism and coastal recreation, the economic lifeblood of the Cape Fear region.

While we are grateful for the natural beauty and economic opportunity the coast provides, it is important that we make continued investments to maintain these precious coastal resources. These investments provide high value and high return to taxpayers. For every one dollar of taxpayer money that is invested, $320 is returned in tax revenue. From spending by beach visitors to tax revenue to payroll dollars, the numbers for our area are sound and strong, and the facts speak for themselves. In 2009 alone, tourism in our coastal counties generated more than $811 million in economic activity and supported more than 10,000 jobs!

This data demonstrates the extraordinary impact of tourism and recreation on the local economy, but there is indeed a ripple effect that benefits our entire region. We know well that local small businesses such as fuel stations, restaurants, and other points of interest reap positive benefits from tourism, particularly those along major transportation corridors and beach routes.

The Port of Wilmington is also a key economic driver for the region and well as the State of North Carolina. During my tenure in Congress, I have been a staunch advocate for making critical investments in the Wilmington Port and Wilmington Harbor that will enable us to compete more effectively with neighboring ports. Recent and continuing infrastructure improvements in highway networks and the Port of Wilmington make it a premier multi-use facility for commerce and trade, but we can and must push for further improvements.

This year, I was successful in securing $59.3 million from the Army Corp of Engineers for the Port and Harbor and securing an additional $4.48 million specifically for maintenance along the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AIWW). The funding from the Corps will help complete the Wilmington Harbor deepening plan of the late 1990's to a 44-foot depth, provide necessary dredging and maintenance of the AIWW and vital area inlets, and make repairs and critical improvements along the Cape Fear River. These types of investments provide an impressive return on the dollar and are vital for navigation for commerce and recreation, coastal storm damage reduction, public safety, and emergency response.

We have compiled a strong and hard-fought track record of success with securing funding for beach renourishment, and while I was pleased to help deliver $4.4 million this year, I am continuing to work hard toward a pragmatic solution to continue our long-term plans for coastal investment. The 50-year beach projects, such as Carolina Beach and Ocean Isle Beach, need to be reauthorized. Carolina Beach will be the first in the nation to need reauthorization, and our success depends on working in partnership with local communities, the Army Corps of Engineers, and my colleagues in the U.S. House and Senate. I am committed completely to that mission and remain hopeful that we will be able to move forward on a path closer to reauthorization of this essential investment.

To learn more about matters affecting our economy and coastal resources, please visit our website at Our website will also allow you to view a recent conversation I had with the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, on this important topic, as well as sign up to receive my periodic e-newsletter and keep in touch on other important issues.

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