143B-279.8. Coastal Habitat Protection Plans.

(a) The Department shall coordinate the preparation of draft Coastal Habitat Protection Plans for critical fisheries habitats. The goal of the Plans shall be the long-term enhancement of coastal fisheries associated with each coastal habitat identified in subdivision (1) of this subsection. The Department shall use the staff of those divisions within the Department that have jurisdiction over marine fisheries, water quality, and coastal area management in the preparation of the Coastal Habitat Protection Plans and shall request assistance from other federal and State agencies as necessary. The plans shall:

(1) Describe and classify biological systems in the habitats, including wetlands, fish spawning grounds, estuarine or aquatic endangered or threatened species, primary or secondary nursery areas, shellfish beds, submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) beds, and habitats in outstanding resource waters.

(2) Evaluate the function, value to coastal fisheries, status, and trends of the habitats.

(3) Identify existing and potential threats to the habitats and the impact on coastal fishing.

(4) Recommend actions to protect and restore the habitats.

(b) Once a draft Coastal Habitat Protection Plan has been prepared, the chairs of the Coastal Resources Commission, the Environmental Management Commission, and the Marine Fisheries Commission shall each appoint two members of the commission he or she chairs to a six-member review committee. The six-member review committee, in consultation with the Department, shall review the draft Plan and may revise the draft Plan on a consensus basis. The draft Plan, as revised by the six-member review committee, shall then be submitted to the Coastal Resources Commission, the Environmental Management Commission, and the Marine Fisheries Commission, each of which shall independently consider the Plan for adoption. If any of the three commissions is unable to agree to any aspect of a Plan, the chair of each commission shall refer that aspect of the Plan to a six-member conference committee to facilitate the resolution of any differences. The six-member conference committee shall be appointed in the same manner as a six-member review committee and may include members of the six-member review committee that reviewed the Plan. Each final Coastal Habitat Protection Plan shall consist of those provisions adopted by all three commissions. The three commissions shall review and revise each Coastal Habitat Protection Plan at least once every five years.

(c) In carrying out their powers and duties, the Coastal Resources Commission, the Environmental Management Commission, and the Marine Fisheries Commission shall ensure, to the maximum extent practicable, that their actions are consistent with the Coastal Habitat Protection Plans as adopted by the three commissions. The obligation to act in a manner consistent with a Coastal Habitat Protection Plan is prospective only and does not oblige any commission to modify any rule adopted, permit decision made, or other action taken prior to the adoption or revision of the Coastal Habitat Protection Plan by the three commissions. The Coastal Resources Commission, the Environmental Management Commission, and the Marine Fisheries Commission shall adopt rules to implement Coastal Habitat Protection Plans in accordance with Chapter 150B of the General Statutes.

(d) If any of the three commissions concludes that another commission has taken an action that is inconsistent with a Coastal Habitat Protection Plan, that commission may request a written explanation of the action from the other commission. A commission shall provide a written explanation: (i) upon the written request of one of the other two commissions, or (ii) upon its own motion if the commission determines that it must take an action that is inconsistent with a Coastal Habitat Protection Plan.

(e) The Coastal Resources Commission, the Environmental Management Commission, and the Marine Fisheries Commission shall report to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Natural and Economic Resources, the Fiscal Research Division, and the Environmental Review Commission on progress in developing and implementing the Coastal Habitat Protection Plans, including the extent to which the actions of the three commissions are consistent with the Plans, on or before September 1 of each year in which any significant revisions to the Plans are made.

(f) Repealed by Session Laws 2017-10, s. 4.11(b), effective May 4, 2017. (1997-400, s. 3.1; 1997-443, s. 11A.119(b); 2011-291, ss. 2.52, 2.53; 2012-201, s. 6; 2015-241, s. 14.30(v); 2017-10, ss. 4.11(a), (b); 2017-57, s. 14.1(m).)