Coast Guard Determines Inlet Too Shallow To Mark Safe Navigation

Coast Guard Determines Inlet Too Shallow To Mark Safe Navigation

Coast Guard Determines Inlet Too Shallow To Mark Safe Navigation Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 03 April 2019 16:58

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The U.S. Coast Guard announced March 29th, that navigation buoys at the Carolina Beach Inlet at the north end of Pleasure Island will be temporarily discontinued until the inlet can be dredged to a safe depth.

According to a release from the U.S. Coast Guard 5th District Mid-Atlantic, "Channel surveys in 2019 show water depths in Carolina Beach Inlet channel are less than four feet in some areas, prompting the Coast Guard to remove aids to navigation that may mislead mariners. On April 1, 2019, the Coast Guard will begin to temporarily discontinue 10 navigational aids in the inlet. The Army Corps of Engineers provided recent surveys, which expose significant shoaling between Buoy 1 (LLNR 30265) and Buoy 9 (LLNR 30305)."

According to the Coast Guard the buoys are intended to mark safe areas of passage with known depths and, "Leaving the buoys in place may lead mariners through an unsafe route. Boaters who choose to transit the inlet without buoys, do so at their own risk."

“The safety of mariners is our first priority,” said Cmdr. Heather Stratton, chief of prevention for Sector North Carolina. “Right now, the waterway is unsafe to navigate due to extreme shoaling and currents. Once it is safe to navigate the channel, we will reestablish the aids to navigation.”

New Hanover County officials say they are working on resolving the situation.

On March 29th, the County issued a release stating, "New Hanover County is actively working with state partners and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin a dredging project in April for Carolina Beach Inlet to keep it clear and safe for navigation. The U.S. Coast Guard had expressed a concern that its vessel used to move buoys could not access and relocate the buoys, which aid navigation, until the inlet was dredged. New Hanover County staff are working with the Corps of Engineers to coordinate a schedule for the dredging project and anticipate it will commence by mid-April."

Once that project is completed, the U.S. Coast Guard will be able to relocate the buoys to alert boaters to the safest route through the inlet.

According to County officials the County and state partners have provided a total of $1,020,000 that is in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers coffers for dredging the inlet once a vessel becomes available.

"This is not a funding issue,” said Jonathan Barfield Jr., chairman of the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners. “The issue was one of timing involving dredging vessels and the Coast Guard’s capacity to safely relocate the inlet’s buoys."

N.C. House Representative Ted Davis, Jr. - Republican - District 19 New Hanover - explained on March 31st, "The Carolina Beach Inlet channel will be temporarily closed beginning on Monday, April 1, because of being too shallow in certain areas. The Coast Guard will remove the navigational buoys, which means that boaters will go through the inlet at their own risk. This past Friday, I spoke with members of the Carolina Beach Inlet Association about the situation. On Monday, I will begin discussions with members of the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners."

On March 29th, Carolina Beach Inlet Association Corporate Secretary Carlton Brown wrote in a letter to members of CBIA explaining, "Today, we were informed of the scheduled closure of Carolina Beach Inlet, during a conversation between CBIA President Mike Britt and US Coast Guard Commander Heather Stratton, they – the USCG, are pulling the navigational buoys - The inlet is simply no longer safe for navigation. For years, the CBIA has existed for the sole purpose of educating and informing the general public, community leaders, both local and state politicians, with a double emphasis on our New Hanover County Commissioners, of the benefit as well as the necessity of allocating appropriate funds to keep the inlet open. What we stood to lose as an island, town and how the county would be effected should we lose the inlet, due to their minimal efforts & contributions. They refused to allocate the funds needed, even though the state is willing to match every dollar 2 to 1 the county contributes – it’s that important!"

Brown explained, "Our NHC County Commissioners helped as little as they could, to still be able to claim to be our partners in the effort to keep the inlet open. Over and over, time and again, they were warned of financial hardships to residents, tourism, charter fishing, and business owners as a whole on this island, the reduction of real estate values, tax receipts and other income this island so graciously generates for benefit of all county citizens. They, our commissioners chose rather, each year to squander millions of NHC taxpayer dollars on pet projects, so-called investments, which returned little or nothing to the county, created no jobs and benefited only a small number of county residents. Now they will further lose/squander millions more county dollars to get the inlet back open again."

He explained, "Since 4:30 today, Officers of the CBIA have been burning the phones up of every political figure in the state with ears. [N.C. House Representative] Ted Davis, Jr is an ardent supporter of the CBIA and Congressman Rouzer’s office responded just as aggressively as the CBIA. They are just as upset as we and are working hard to see this closure is only temporary."

Brown explained, "CBIA Vice President Jarvis Wise spoke directly with Congressman Rouzer’s District Director Chance Lambeth, who is working with NHC Engineer Layton Bedsole and officials at the US Army Corp of Engineers, to arrange an emergency dredging event within the next 2-weeks, since one was not scheduled until sometime in May. The Commander of the USCG said she would re-set the buoys once the inlet had a safe channel to navigate."

The Carolina Beach Inlet Association is urging people to contact County Commissioners and staff by phone and email, "The CBIA asks you to please contact each one both by phone and email and let them know you want the inlet back open immediately, whatever it takes and to allocate the necessary funds to match the State of NC, to keep the inlet both open and safe for navigation. Thank You for your continued support of our efforts. Neither you or I failed – our county commissioners did!"

Carolina Beach Councilman Steve Shuttleworth communicated with Layton Bedsoe, New Hanover County Shoreline Protection Manager and explained, "Thank you for speaking with me about the recent CBIA letter to County Commissioners.  As we discussed the Town Council recognize the financial contributions and support from the County Commissioners and the efforts you have put forth to make sure the inlet remains open. Please help me and my fellow council members provide accurate and specific information to the public as the question of Inlet closure continues to be discussed throughout the community."

Shuttleworth explained, "Specifically please provide a summary of the 2016, 2017, 2018 and Year-to-date dredge events. The number of events, the cost, the amount of sand dredged and the length of the event. I also understand from your previous regular reports there is a dredge event scheduled for this quarter. I see from news reports yesterday that the date is being moved forward to possibly early/mid April in an attempt to clear the navigation channel prior to the USCG removing the navigational buoys."

He explained, "I want to confirm our discussion so the rest of Council  understands that the plan. Which is  to have a side cast dredge perform a preliminary dredge pass. This will create a deeper navigation channel for hopper dredge, which requires that deeper channel to operate. The hopper dredge will  collect sand material and place it in the near shore dredge location. This event has been planned and on the tentative schedule, waiting on Army Corp of Engineers  equipment availability. A significant component is the beneficial placement  we achieve by replacing sand in the sand source that we just drew 900K+ cubic yards from for the Carolina Beach Storm Damage  reduction project.   This is a significant benefit to the inlet and future CSDR projects."

A Coastal Storm Damage Reduction (CSDR) project was recently completed in Carolina Beach to pump sand onto the beach from an area near shore at the Carolina Beach Inlet.

Shuttleworth said Monday that one delay in dredging the inlet is awaiting maintenance to be completed on a Corp of Engineers dredge vessel. Once that's complete, he is hopeful the sand from the navigational area of the inlet can be relocated to the borrow site from which sand was recently pumped to renourish the beach front.

On March 29th, Carolina Beach Town Manager Lucky Narain wrote to New Hanover County Manager Chris Coudriet explaining, "I’m not sure if you are following the Carolina Beach Inlet Association media activity.  But if you are – they are not representing the Town in any capacity.  We are very appreciative of the support New Hanover County has provided to Carolina Beach Inlet. We look forward to working with Layton on this and other beach and inlet issues."

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