An inlet runs through it

By Scott Mooneyham | Mar 06, 2013

RALEIGH — In this job, readers eager to share their take on your take regarding state politics comes with the territory.

Whether by email or phone, I come into contact with a variety of people who want to converse on the topics covered in this column.

Some agree with my views. Others don't. I generally don't shy away from corresponding or talking with readers as long as we can do so civilly.

One reader with whom I have had a few conversations over the years is Outer Bank's charter boat captain Jamie Reibel.

Reibel doesn't agree with a lot of what I have written about the fight between commercial and recreational fishermen over the coastal fisheries resource. He hasn't been bashful about letting me know.

(Despite deriving most or all of his income as a charter boat captain, he sees the commercial fishermen as being threatened by efforts of recreational fishing groups to put further limits on commercial fishing.)

Our disagreements haven't kept him from calling or stopping by when he is in Raleigh visiting the Legislative Building. Even when I am not around, he has dropped by literature to try to disabuse me of my wayward opinions.

His most recent visit to Raleigh came on matter that requires no disabusing.

Reibel, in a quick chat, pointed out how Outer Banks fishermen are having trouble negotiating Oregon and Hatteras inlets in a time when federal money for inlet dredging is drying up.

It is the kind of issue that might not generate a lot of attention outside of the area affected, but the inlets are critical for coastal economies dependent on commercial and recreational fishing, as well as other forms of boating that draw visitors.

There may be help on the way, though.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown, an Onslow County Republican, has filed legislation to create a special fund for inlet dredging.

What Brown has in mind is creating a pool of money that would go solely toward dredging for the state's shallower inlets, as opposed to the shipping channels at Wilmington and Morehead City.

Of course, nothing is free in this world.

Brown's fund would be paid for with increases in boat registration fees.

Right now, the annual registration fee for all boats is $15.

Under the legislation, for boats 14 feet and under, the annual fee would remain the same; boats that are 14 to 20 feet would see an increase to $25; bigger boats would pay more, with those 40 feet or longer paying $150. Three-year registrations, as they are now, would be cheaper.

By not increasing the fees for boats 14 feet and under, Brown attempts to get at problem that is not easily solved: Some boaters never put their boats in anything but fresh water, but the state does not track which boats go where.

But all boaters, and state residents, should recognize that the coastal economy is important to us all, and sometimes we all need to pitch in.

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