PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — The Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers met Thursday with staff from federal and state congressional offices, local marina owners and the Prince William County Board of Supervisors to discuss the future of Neabsco Creek, following navigational concerns. The meeting was part of an on-going effort amongst federal, state, and community partners to address the safety, commercial and recreational interests in Neabsco Creek.
Thursday’s discussion focused on the opportunities for private aids to navigation, the potential transfer of the two fixed aids, and dredging options funded by state or local governments.
March 30, 2018, two seasonal buoys were not re-established after the Coast Guard found the water depth too shallow to maintain them. Two other fixed aids to navigation that marked the entrance to the channel were converted to non-lateral aids identifying the area as shoal water until they could be completely removed.
The Neabsco Creek federal navigation channel is authorized to a depth of five feet, but results from a channel survey performed April 17 by the Army Corps of Engineers show depths ranging from 1.4 feet to 4.9 feet along the centerline in most of the waterway. The Coast Guard is unable to maintain aids to navigation in the channel due to this shallow water.
“We understand the issues facing the local marina owners and recreational boaters, but the safety of mariners is our first priority,” said Cdr. Charles Bright, chief of prevention at Coast Guard Sector Maryland-National Capital Region. “When we realized Neabsco Creek was no longer at the authorized depth, we had to act quickly to inform mariners to exercise caution when transiting in that area. That is why we converted the aids. We will continue to work with our partners and the community to ensure a safe and secure waterway.”
When recreational boats run aground, boaters can be left stranded until a tow company can assist. In cases where a vessel is travelling at a high speed, boaters can be ejected from the boat and suffer injuries or death as a result.
The Army Corps of Engineers does not currently have federal funding for maintenance dredging of the area. State and local government entities are looking at the possibility of contributing funds for dredging.
“Federal funding is extremely competitive for maintenance dredging,” said Graham Mcallister, navigation section chief of Army Corps of Engineers Baltimore District. “Dredging funds are prioritized based on commercial traffic and economic impact of the activity. We will continue discussions with our state and local partners on options and other funding sources that may be available for dredging.”
Currently, two buoys not established by the Coast Guard are present in the entrance to Neabsco Creek. There is a permitting process for private aids to navigation to be officially approved by the Coast Guard and then the private aid positions are given to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Association to update NOAA navigation charts. Once approved, private aids can be placed by private citizens or other entities for their own use in areas where the Coast Guard cannot place aids to navigation due to shallow water, or other reasons.
The two current fixed aids in Neabsco Creek could potentially be transferred to another government entity for use and maintenance.