In a land swap that seems to benefit everybody Currituck County and US Fish & Wildlife are trading parcels of land. The County will purchase 380 acres of land adjacent to Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge on Knotts Island, then donate that land to the federal government in exchange for approximately 700 acres of land in Carova.
If the agreement holds, it is very significant. Commissioners have become increasingly uneasy about whether USFW will continue to allow beach access to Carova, citing remarks a federal judge made during Hatteras beach driving hearings. By taking control of the land for the use by the county, continued access is assured.
Questions were asked if a paved road could be place north of the Corolla, and County Attorney Ike McCree pointed out that there is still considerable amounts of land owned Currituck Banks National Estuarine Research Reserve and covenants prohibiting a paved road.
The parcel of land USFW will receive is called the Flyway Tract that the Federal government views as an important addition to Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge. The land under discussion is upland and marsh; there is infrastructure on the site, but that is not included in the sale. The addition of the land will bring the refuge to almost 10,000 acres.
Although not a specific provision of the agreement, with the county’s control of the land, the Corolla Wild Horse Fund should more power to manage the herd. USFW viewed the horses as an invasive species and restricted their access to areas that they controlled.
The details of the swap are fairly complex but essentially the County and USFW will split the cost of purchasing the Flyway Tract at a cost of approximately $1.8 million. The County is hoping a grant from the North Carolina Clean Water Trust Fund will cover half of their costs bringing the price to Currituck County to somewhere around $450,000.
Although nothing has been finalized yet, the Commissioners voted to pursue the agreement at their February 15 meeting.