Sunset Beach is appealing the state’s decision to restrict requested dredging activity to 2 feet below the mean low water line, seeking to dredge up to 6 feet below mean low water. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Google Maps)

NC - Sunset Beach wants exception to state regulations to dredge man-made canals, Jinks Creek

SUNSET BEACH — After a yearslong effort to deepen narrow waterways, Sunset Beach has appealed the state’s dredging permit, seeking to dredge material at a deeper depth than federal and state agencies recommend.

In October 2019, the Division of Coastal Management (DCM) approved the town’s Coastal Area Management Act Major Permit to dredge its four ‘finger canals,’ feeder channel, bay area, and south Jinks Creek. This activity would disturb approximately 18 acres of shallow bottom habitat — regardless of how deep the town is permitted to dredge.

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Sunset Beach first applied to dredge these areas to 5 to 6 feet below the mean low water (MLW) line; each section is currently less than 3 feet below the MLW line, with south Jinks Creek having the most shallow bottom. The CAMA permit approved the town’s request, but limited dredging to just 2 feet below the MLW line, in accordance with the state environmental regulation that prohibits excavation below the depth of connecting waters.

So, late December, Sunset Beach filed an appeal of the state’s decision, seeking a variance from the state regulation to dredge the areas to five-to-six feet below MLW as originally proposed. Despite concerns raised by a host of local, state, and federal agencies, a Jan. 30 staff report compiled by DEQ’s general counsel agrees with Sunset Beach’s variance request.

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