A dedicated source of state funds for maintenance dredging of inlets along the North Carolina coast could be on the way.
Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, is the primary sponsor of a bill that would establish as a special revenue fund the Shallow Draft Inlet Dredging Fund. Money for the fund would come from proposed increases in North Carolina’s vessel registration and titling fees. Brown said keeping waterways such as New River Inlet and Bogue Inlet navigable is important to the state’s economy, with recreational boaters, commercial vessels and fishermen among the many users.
“No one likes an increase. I’m sure there will be some opposition; there always is. But I don’t know where else to get the money,” he said. “If our inlets are that important to us then we’ve got to find the money, and for Eastern North Carolina they are important. They are used for recreational boating, used for both recreational and commercial fishing and . . . important to our tourism economy.”
Currently it costs $15 a year to register a vessel with the state or $40 for a three-year period and applies to all vessels requiring numbering by the state regardless of size.
Under Senate Bill 58, the fees would increase and be implemented according to the length of the vessel.
The fee for a one-year period would remain $15 for vessels less than 14 feet in length and be set at $25 for a vessel more than 14 feet in length but less than 20 feet; $50 for those 20 feet or more but less than 26 feet; $100 for a vessel 26 feet or more but less than 40 feet; and $150 for those more than $40 feet in length.
The fee for a three-year period would be $45 for vessels less than 14 feet in length; $75 for a vessel more than 14 feet in length but less than 20 feet; $150 for those 20 feet or more but less than 26 feet; $300 for a vessel 26 feet or more but less than 40 feet; and $450 for those more than 40 feet in length.
Also, the fee for new or renewed certificates of title will increase from $20 to $30.
“That has not changed since the ’80s,” Brown said.
Brown said the additional funds generated will go to the Shallow Draft Inlets fund, but the changes proposed in the bill would not impact revenue now going to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commissioner’s Boating Account from certificate and titling provisions.
The Commission’s Boating Account, which receives money from certificates and titling, as well as motor fuel excise tax revenues, is used for activities relating to boating and water safety and for boating access improvements.
The need for a dedicated source of funds for dredging the state’s shallow draft inlets has become a concern with the disappearance of federal dollars for such projects. Brown said there is currently a provision in the bill that calls for state funds to be matched by local governments for dredging projects.
If approved, the bill would become effective July 1.