Natural Resources and Environment:

Cost Estimate for the Currituck Outer Banks National Wildlife Refuge Needs Revision

CED-81-48: Published: Apr 21, 1981. Publicly Released: Apr 21, 1981.

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed establishing a national wildlife refuge in the Currituck Outer Banks off the North Carolina coast. The Service has estimated that the cost of acquiring the 16,000 acres of land and wetlands for the refuge will be about $94 million over a 5-year acquisition period. GAO was asked to determine whether the Service followed its regulations and policies in developing its proposal for the refuge.

In proposing the refuge, the Service generally adhered to the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. However, in developing its cost estimate, the Service did not consider a number of factors that could substantially reduce the cost of establishing the refuge. GAO found that: (1) the data used in preparing the estimate were unreliable; (2) certain costs were not considered, such as the acquisition of subdivision roads and the possibility of a higher property escalation rate; and (3) there were inconsistencies among the options in land classification, values, and the number of lots. In addition, GAO believes that the wetlands could be protected by working with the Army Corps of Engineers using existing regulatory authority, thus eliminating the need for the Service to acquire them.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should require the Fish and Wildlife Service to revise its cost estimate for the refuge considering the factors discussed in pages 4 to 7 of this letter and provide the revised estimate to the Congress when requesting appropriations for the refuge.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Interior is studying the feasibility of working with the Audubon Society, rather than the Corps of Engineers, to protect the proposed refuge.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of the Interior and the Army should develop a cooperative agreement by which the Corps of Engineers could protect the wetlands without the Service having to acquire full title to such lands.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Interior is studying the feasibility of working with the Audubon Society, rather than the Corps of Engineers, to protect the proposed refuge.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of the Interior and the Army should develop a cooperative agreement by which the Corps of Engineers could protect the wetlands without the Service having to acquire full title to such lands.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

 

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