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Canceled: the NPS presentation on the fight against phragmites


National Park Service News Release

Know Your Park Programs for Tonight and Tuesday Cancelled

The National Park Service Know Your Park programs on invasive plant species scheduled for the Ocracoke Community Center tonight, Monday, February 23, at 7:00 p.m. and the Fessenden Center in Buxton on Tuesday February 24, at 7:00 p.m., have been cancelled.  The speaker is not able to travel to present these sessions.

The National Park Service regrets the short notice and we apologize for any inconvenience.  We hope to reschedule this program in the future.


Lady Dolphins set to play Lejeune Devil Pups


By Peter Vankevich

Lady Dolphins IMG_3343On Saturday, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) unveiled the state playoff brackets for boys and girls basketball.

The Ocracoke Lady Dolphins (16-7) will travel to Camp Lejeune to take on the Lejeune Devil Pups (16-3). The game is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday (Feb 24).  The game will be broadcast on  Ocracoke’s community radio station: 90.1 FM on the island and online at: wovv.org.

The Boys team (6-17)  was not selected for further tournament play. They won the first round game of the  Coastal Ten Basketball Tournament, beating Cape Hatteras 67-49. The rest of the tournament was canceled due to the freezing weather.
Both teams are in Eastern Division 1A.

From the archives: Invasive phragmites–the “uncommon” common reed

Phragmites in fall along Southpoint Road. Photo by C. Leinbach
Upate: The Know Your Park citizen science program on efforts to stop the spread of phragmites sponsored by The National Park Service Outer Banks Group scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, Feb, 23, in the Ocracoke Community Center has been canceled due to weather-related travel concerns.
This article written by Pat Garber provides detailed information about phragmites  that was published in the Ocracoke Observer in May of 2013.

Driving along the winding lanes that border marshlands in eastern North Carolina, one might notice a tall, lovely grass, its feather-like tassels rustling gently as it sways in the breeze. It looks natural in its wetland setting, as if it has always been there; and in fact it has lived here for thousands of years. Something, however, is different. A century ago the reed would have been part of a complex ecosystem comprised of many plant species, supporting a wide variety of animal life. Today it most likely dominates its habitat, forming a mono-culture that is unnatural and uninviting for many of the animals that live in the marsh. The reed now acts as an invasive rather than a native species, destroying other natives and creating a vista that is nearly barren of other life forms.

Phragmites australis, otherwise known as common reed, is a species of wetland grass usually found in low-lying areas where there is a large amount of water in the soil and ample sunlight. It can grow from three to thirteen feet high, reaching its maximum height between the ages of five and eight years. It has cane-like stems, large feathery plumes, and an extensive root system of thick, white, leathery rhizomes which may be close to the surface or buried deep in the substrate. Its flowers are arranged along the canes in spikelets with tufts of silky hairlike fibers. A perennial, it spreads through seed dispersal and by branching rhizomes, which can break off and re-root. According to Clemson University professor Jack M. Whelston, the rhizomes produce monotypic stands of clones which are genetically identical, and which can exist for over a thousand years. The common reed is one of the most widely distributed flowering plants in the world, growing naturally on most of the continents and now throughout the continental United States, barring Alaska, and in Canada. Why and how it changed its behavior in the United States from that of an uncommon native marsh resident to that of a non-native, monopolistic invasive has puzzled scientists for years.

Some fifty thousand species of non-native plants and animals have been documented living in the United States, some introduced on purpose, others by accident. Some, such as dandelions and Queen Anne’s-lace, often referred to as exotics, can co-exist with native species without doing any real harm. Others, labeled as invasives, can wipe out native species and destroy whole ecosystems. Examples are the Japanese vine kudzu, found in the south-east; zebra mussels, which are devastating the Great Lakes; and Burmese pythons, now proliferating in the Everglades of Florida. Invasive species have been responsible for massive die-offs of elm, chestnut, and other native trees. It is estimated that the economic cost of invasive species in this country is 120 billion dollars a year, and Phragmites australis is now included.

Recent research has come up with some answers to the mystery of the “un-common” common reed in America. According to the North Carolina Forest Service and a report put out by the NC Department of Transportation, “Invasive Exotic Plants of North Carolina,” genetic testing shows that there are native and non-native haplotypes (family lineages) of Phragmites australis growing in our coastal marshes. It is the non-native plants that are overtaking wetland ecosystems. They probably arrived accidentally in the late 18th or early 19th centuries, perhaps in the ballast of ships coming from Europe. Once here, they began spreading out across the continent, displacing the native Phragmites australis and other native grasses, and forming mono-cultures where there had been healthy ecosystems. They are presently moving into the Great Plains, where they threaten to alter important habitat for several endangered species of birds.

Through genetic research scientists have identified as many as eleven haplotypes or strains of Phragmites australis—including communis, americanis and austalis, which may help to explain the deviant behavior. The invasive, European variety of Phragmites australis is far more common now in North Carolina than the native plants. They can be found growing in tidal and non-tidal brackish and saltwater marshes, along river edges, on the shores of lakes and ponds, in disturbed areas and pristine sites. They are especially common in roadside ditches. Described by Dr. Whelston as “ecosystem engineers,” they can alter entire aquatic ecosystems as they spread, reducing the productivity of fish, shellfish, birds, and other wildlife. They do provide shade, some food and nesting sites for a limited number of species.

The European strain of these plants is grown commercially in Europe and used for thatching, livestock feed, and cellulose production. Ironically, European Phragmites australis are in decline in their original territory, causing concern because of their economic value.

It is difficult to distinguish the non-native from the native reeds without genetic testing, but generally, large stands of phragmites, such as one often sees growing along roadsides, can be assumed to be European invasives. Phragmites may also be confused with the native “giant cordgrass” (Spartina cynosuroides.)

Eliminating or controlling non-native phragmites is now a priority with North Carolina’s wetland management organizations and many environmental groups, but the job is difficult and labor intensive. Attempts to eradicate it have included burning, cutting, draining, flooding, disking, mowing, and the use of insect pests and herbicides. Some of these methods have worked in the short term, but were ineffective over the long run. J.L. Boone, PhD in Ecology, wrote in 1987 that he had had some success in using a three-prong method which included manual cutting, burning, and the covering the area with sheets of clear plastic for 70 to 120 days.

The use of the herbicide Glyphosate, labeled for use in aquatic sites, has been found to be somewhat effective. Using herbicides in wetlands, however, presents an environmental risk, so must be done with great care. The North Carolina Forest Service has had success treating the reeds with Glyphosate in late summer and early fall, followed by prescribed burns and successive treatments for several more years. It is imperative, they stress, to follow up with monitoring to prevent the reeds from re-invading.

As always, the first step in addressing an environmental concern is identifying the problem and preventing its spreading. The invasive haplotype of Phragmites australis already had a head start before it was identified as what it was, but now, as scientists learn more about it and how to remove it, perhaps North Carolina’s wetlands can be spared the worst of its effects.

Heard on Ocracoke: Barefoot Wade


Barefoot Wade

by Peter Vankevich

Barefoot Wade (Wade McVey) has performed on Ocracoke for several years including being on air on Ocracoke’s community radio station.

The barefoot musician has best been described as a “One-Man-Caribbean-Jam-Band.”

On stage, Wade employs the use of acoustic and electric guitars, bass guitars, steel drum, lots of various percussion, keyboards and kazoos.

He is able to play these instruments simultaneously through a process known as “loop sampling.”  This gives the aural illusion that there is more than one musician jamming on stage.  His musical style combines elements of reggae, rock, Americana and comedic country blended into his own original sound.

He kicks off the 2015 season on Ocracoke at Gaffer’s: St. Patty’s Day Party with Barefoot Wade 9 p.m.

You can learn more about Barefoot Wade at his website and Facebook page.

Listen to his original song “Let’s Slowdown” here

NCDOT Ferry Division to adjust summer schedule for Cedar Island-Ocracoke

​​New Schedule Reflects Traffic Patterns, Passenger Requests For Later Departures
 (MANNS HARBOR) – After studying Pamlico Sound traffic patterns and hearing from passengers wanting later evening departures from both terminals, the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Ferry Division has adjusted the summer schedule for its Cedar Island-Ocracoke route.

“This schedule gives us greater efficiency during the day, and offers people on the mainland the chance to catch a ferry to Ocracoke after work, which is something they’ve been requesting,” said Ferry Division Director Ed Goodwin. “We’re confident that we will still have the capacity to get all of our Pamlico Sound passengers where they want to go in a timely manner.”

The new Cedar Island-Ocracoke summer schedule, effective May 19, will be as follows:

Departing Cedar Island: 7 a.m., 10, 1 p.m., 4, 6:30.

Departing Ocracoke: 7:30 a.m., 10, 1 p.m., 4, 9.

Reservations on all Pamlico Sound routes are highly encouraged, especially during the summer months.

Dare County to hold meeting sometime in March on offshore drilling

Walter Jones
U.S. Rep. Walter Jones.


Press release 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In response to a request from Congressman Walter B. Jones (NC-3) and the Dare County Board of Commissioners, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has agreed to hold an additional public scoping meeting on the Outer Banks regarding the federal government’s proposal to conduct an oil and gas lease sale off the coast of North Carolina between 2017 to 2022.

The meeting is expected to take place in mid-March, although a specific date, time and location have not yet been set.

Jones formally requested the meeting in a Feb. 5 letter to the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), Abigail Ross Hopper.

The only public meeting that BOEM had previously scheduled in North Carolina took place Feb. 17 in Wilmington.

Jones and Dare County commissioners made the case that because Wilmington lies in the southeastern corner of the state, many citizens from the northern part of the coast who would like to attend the meeting would not be able to due to the geographic distance involved.

“It is vitally important for the federal government to receive the input of citizens who stand to be most impacted by this proposal,” Jones said.  “I am thankful to Director Hopper for granting this request so that those living in the northern part of the state can participate in this process.”

Below is Jones’ letter requesting a meeting in Dare County.

Jones letter


Tideland EMC issues emergency request to scale back electric use during record setting freeze


At 6:16 a.m. (Friday Feb 20), Tideland EMC issued  an emergency text message:

Please cut off water heater breakers and non-essential electric loads now to prevent outages. Record utility demand systemwide. www.tidelandemc.com.

NCDOT signs contract for passenger ferry test runs

The Provincetown III, front, will be in Ocracoke May 4 to 5 to test the waters fro a passenger ferry. Photo from http://www.baystatecruisecompany.com



Manns Harbor— As part of its ongoing feasibility study on passenger ferry service, the North Carolina Department of Transportation has signed an agreement with Bay State Cruise Company to charter the M/V Provincetown III for test runs of a potential passenger ferry route between Hatteras and Ocracoke Village on May 4 to 5.

“These test runs will allow us to judge the feasibility of the route, duration of the voyage, fuel consumption, and other factors that will help us determine whether passenger ferry service is something that we can and should be offering,” said NCDOT Ferry Division Director Ed Goodwin. “It’s all part of the due diligence required in the feasibility study.”

The Provincetown III is a catamaran-style ferry that is 98 feet long and carries 149 passengers. It services the Boston to Provincetown route in the summer and works in the Caribbean in the winter. The ship will be on its return voyage north when it stops in North Carolina.

NCDOT commissioned a feasibility study on passenger ferry service late last year in an effort to solve summertime congestion issues on the Hatteras Inlet route. The study is being conducted by Volkert, an infrastructure engineering firm based in Mobile, Ala. It is scheduled to be complete by December.

Ocracoke British Cemetery Ceremony seeks contributions

British Cemetery: a final salute.  Photo by  P. Vankevich
British Cemetery: a final salute. Photo by P. Vankevich

 Note: address to send contributions is below.

 This ceremony, organized by the War Graves Committee on Hatteras, remembers the sinking by German U-boats, of the HMT Bedfordshire, a British trawler, off the coast here in 1942.  For six months, the U-boat brigade picked off allied convoys like a shooting gallery off the Outer Banks. The annual commemoration of four British World War II soldiers buried on Ocracoke will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, May 8, at the small plot of British land along British Cemetery Road.

For 72 years, Ocracoke has remembered the four British sailors whose bodies washed ashore after a U-boat on May 11, 1942, torpedoed the HMT Bedforshire, a British trawler pressed into military service to ferry supplies.

Two of the sailors were identified: Sub Lieutenant Thomas Cunningham and Ordinary Telegraphist Second Class Stanley Craig. The people of Ocracoke rallied and donated land on which the four are interred and which is now owned by Great Britain.  Four other British sailors are interred in a second cemetery in Buxton. They will be remembered the day before the Ocracoke event.  These are the only WWII British cemeteries in the United States.

Under the auspices of the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Park Service, the Ocracoke Civic and Business Association conduct the remembrances of these men who made the ultimate sacrifice.

 This event attracts a lot of visitors to Ocracoke, many of whom arrive early and remain for a day or two afterwards. 

Thanks to the Ocracoke Occupancy Tax Board, $2,000 is provided to cover the cost of the cemetery plantings and the reception afterwards.  This rarely covers the total cost. So donations are encouraged from the community and property owners. 

Two Ocracoke high school seniors will be selected to read the history of the sinking of the HMT Bedfordshire and the names of the men who lost their lives that day. 

Two seniors will be selected to welcome the guests to the event.  Howard Bennink plays taps to close the program.  Ocracoke Boy Scout troop No. 290 marches in the procession and recessional.  The school encourages the students to attend the program.

 How can you help?

  1. Make a donation to the event and send it to OCBA, P.O. Box 456, Ocracoke, NC 27960. Please note “British Cemetery Ceremony” in the memo line.
  2. Volunteer to help set up the community center the night of May 7.
  3. Serve at the reception on May 8.
  4. Help clean up after the reception on May 8.
  5. Provide soft drinks or water for the reception.

Those interested in helping are asked to contact Janey Jacoby at svc2@embarqmail.com, or 252-928-1881.



British Cemetery Committee
Ocracoke Civic & Business Assoc.
P. O. Box 456
Ocracoke, NC 27960

Tideland EMC Issues Emergency Conservation Alert


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Tideland Electric Membership Corporation has issued an emergency energy conservation alert for Thursday and Friday mornings, February 19 and 20, as temperatures dip into the single digits. Electric co-op members in Beaufort, Craven, Pamlico, Washington, Hyde and Dare counties are asked to shift discretionary energy tasks, like laundry, water heating, baking, and dishwashing, to the warmest part of the day. Doing so will help prevent overloads of utility resources which in turn could lead to brownouts or power outages.
This is the first time in over a decade that Tideland has requested voluntary conservation during an extreme weather event but given the widespread nature of the arctic blast co-op officials feel it is better to be safe than sorry.

“It can be very challenging to restore power to a large group of consumers during extreme temperatures like those we will see in the next forty-eight hours,” said Tideland EMC chief executive officer Paul Spruill. “That’s why we decided to issue a call for conservation measures which in turn have the added benefit of saving consumers energy and money.”

Ways consumers can help “Beat the Peak” Thursday and Friday mornings:
*       Postpone non-essential tasks to a later time such as washing and drying clothes
*       Cut your water heater off between the hours of 5 am and 9 am
*       Avoid dishwasher use until the warmest part of the day
*       Don’t use your oven to bake in the morning
*       If you normally shower or bathe in the morning consider doing so the night before
*       Set your heating thermostat to 68 degrees or lower during the morning hours
*       Shut off hot tubs until the weather warms on Saturday

Energy saving cold weather tips:
*       Heat pump owners: check your thermostat and make sure it is not in the emergency, auxiliary or E-heat setting
*       Make sure central system thermostats are in the auto setting and not in manual mode which results in unnecessary operation of the unit’s fan
*       Make sure all crawlspace vents are closed
*       If you have storm windows make sure both sets are closed and air tight
*       Remove window air conditioning units so you can fully close and seal windows
*       If you are not using your central HVAC system make sure registers and returns are sealed shut. Don’t shut individual rooms registers if the system is operating. Doing so increases duct leakage.
*       Close dampers when fireplaces aren’t in use. Using a fireplace when temperatures are below 50°F will result in net heat losses.
*       Rather than turn up the thermostat bring the warmth to you by layering clothing, using electric blankets and throws, and consuming warm liquids.

If you notice that lights start to dim or flicker shut off as many electric items as possible to reduce the likelihood of an outage.

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