BoatUS Reports

News From The World Of American Boating

Edited By Ryck Lydecker
Published: February/March 2012

Digging For Dredging Dollars

Inlet access is a top concern

The state of North Carolina, with help from coastal towns and counties, is working to fill the budget gap left by the loss of federal dredging funds required to keep shallow-draft inlets along the coast navigable.

Photo of dredging North Carolina inlet
Some of North Carolina's dangerously shallow ocean inlets are being dredged in 2012, thanks to state and local governments that are picking up Congress' slack in funding.

"Everybody in the county, whether they were near Carolina Beach Inlet or not, understood the importance of the inlet to our economy," said Rick Catlin of the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners. After hearing requests from coastal communities near Bogue, New Topsail, Carolina Beach, and Lockwoods Folly Inlets, the state pledged to match half of the estimated cost of $450,000 for each inlet to have the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) perform two dredging cycles. Local town and county governments have pulled together funds to meet their half of the agreement and the USACE is looking at North Carolina as an example of how to manage non-federal funds in other states in the future.

Howard Braxton, mayor of Topsail Beach, said that with all the local money pledged, now they're waiting for the next step. "We've lost one major [fishing] charter company that went out of here because they can't get out of the inlet. And that's a lot for us … a little town."

Beyond financial considerations, safety is a concern. Roger Bullock, chief of navigation at the USACE, Wilmington District, commented on the Emerald Isle Coast Guard station's reliance on Bogue Inlet. "If they cannot respond, then they would have to have the next Coast Guard station at Atlantic Beach respond and go out Beaufort Inlet. What that means to the folks in distress is an extra 25-mile run that the responding unit would have to make."

The Coast Guard has already removed the aids to navigation in Lockwoods Folly Inlet and will soon remove those in New Topsail Inlet until "dredging operations have been completed or depths have improved to support a safe transit." A Memorandum of Understanding is pending between the state and the USACE that would keep out-of-use dredges from being "mothballed" and prevent trained dredge operation crews from being laid off to make it possible to redeploy them quickly, once funds are available.

The goal is to complete this dredging in time for the 2012 spring and summer fishing seasons. "North Carolina realizes the importance of our shallow-draft inlets to our economy, to our recreation, and to the value of some of the things that make North Carolina special," said Catlin, "and we're not going to let it go away."

 

Offshore Wind Blows Both Ways

But as yet none exist in U.S. waters.

The New York Power Authority has pulled the plug on a controversial offshore wind energy project slated for installation in Lake Ontario, citing the estimated $60 million to $100 million annual subsidy such a project would require (see "Winds of Change Coming?" April/May 2011). Meanwhile, the Authority and two other public utilities have moved a step closer to building a similar wind farm in the Atlantic off Long Island. The utilities, operating as the Long Island- New York City Offshore Wind Collaborative, applied in mid-September to the federal government for a lease on ocean bottom 13 to 17 miles off the Rockaway Peninsula.

While offshore wind farm proposals have blown hot and cold over the past decade, drawing both support and opposition from recreational boaters, none yet exist in U.S. waters. But a New Jersey-based wind energy developer has said it could be the first and announced it would start construction in state waters before the end of 2011, when a federal subsidy program expired. Fishermen's Energy, founded by New Jersey commercial fishermen, said it had obtained final permit authority from the state to gamble on a six-turbine demonstration-scale project 2.8 miles off Atlantic City.

Back on the Great Lakes, developers of a wind farm planned for Lake Erie, about seven miles off Cleveland, reportedly reached a deal to sell 25 percent of its power to the city. As a result, in October, the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation announced plans to start construction on a pilot wind farm sometime in 2014.

 

Run With The Big Boats — Virtually, That Is

Want to keep track of the big ships coming and going in the world's harbors and coastal waters? You can, thanks to the Internet and Automatic Identification System (AIS), now required on all commercial vessels. Go to www.marinetraffic.com, zero in on where your curiosity leads on a world map, then mouse on over to one of the color-coded vessel icons displayed. Not only will it call up the name and type of vessel, it will show national flag and near real- time coordinates. Click on that and in many cases you get a window with a picture of the vessel, its vital statistics, destination, and its ETA.

While international maritime agreement mandates AIS on commercial vessels over 300 gross tons, private recreational vessels may equip with transmitters voluntarily and will show up on the system under the purple "Yachts & Others" icon. The University of the Aegean in Syros, Greece, hosts the system, described as "an academic, open, community-based project." The information about ship movements and ports around the world that have AIS networks is free, but the system also offers special paid-subscriber services such as tracking "My Fleet." You can even elect to display text in one of 29 languages.

 

Spill Settlement May Benefit Bay Boaters

San Francisco Bay boaters may benefit from a share of a pending $32.3 million settlement stemming from an oil spill that led to lost recreational boating and fishing opportunities. The spill occurred November 7, 2007, when the 901-foot container ship Cosco Busan struck a support tower on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The collision created a 100-foot-long gash in the ship's hull that allowed the release of approximately 53,000 gallons of fuel oil. The resulting pollution fouled 3,367 acres of shoreline, killed nearly 7,000 birds, and closed San Francisco Bay and adjoining coastlines to boaters, anglers, and beach-goers for weeks during cleanup.

Photo of oil-covered bird

The closure resulted in the loss of over 1 million recreational user-days, according to a settlement report released by the state Department of Fish and Game (DFG), Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR). Lost recreational activities include an estimated 26,600 called off boating trips and 69,500 cancelled boat- or shore-based fishing outings.

The pending settlement allocates approximately $5 million to reestablish bird populations, $4 million to restore damaged habitat, $2.5 million for fish and eel-grass restoration, and $18.8 million toward lost recreational opportunities — including up to $3.8 million that would help mitigate missed boating and fishing trips. Mitigation funds could be used for boating infrastructure improvements such as public launch ramp improvements, according to OSPR spokesman Steve Hampton.

"There are still some legal steps, but the Cosco Busan settlement should be funded in February 2012," Hampton said. Disbursements for recreational improvements will likely come through grants administered by agencies that oversee various shoreline areas, including the National Park Service, and the cities of San Francisco and Richmond. "We're counting on boaters to bring ideas to us," Hampton added. Visit www.dfg.ca.gov/ospr; enter "Cosco Busan spill" into the search engine.

 

17 States Fighting Invasion

Attorneys general from 17 states are urging Congress to take action in the ongoing dispute over the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, which links the Mississippi and Great Lakes watersheds. The 28-mile canal is seen as a likely route for invasive Asian carp, which have wreaked havoc in the Mississippi River, to spread into the lakes.

Photo of a fish mural

The letter, written in September and sent to key committee chairmen in Washington, was signed by attorneys general from six of the eight states bordering the Great Lakes, but also drew support from states as far away as Arizona.

Five states along the Great Lakes — Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — are suing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Chicago to close the canal, temporarily severing the link between the two water basins. The Corps operates an electrical barrier on the canal to deter migrating fish from passing through. Last year, after Asian carp DNA was found upstream of the barrier, the Corps increased the current briefly, but reduced it again after the boost interfered with nearby railroad equipment.

Asian carp are not the only species that threaten watersheds, nor is the spread of invasive species a one-way street. The attorneys general cite zebra mussels, which spread to the Mississippi from the Great Lakes, and quagga mussels, which have gained a foothold in the Lakes and threaten to spread southward. The letter to Congress takes issue with the timeline set by the Army Corps, specifically a study of the Chicago area waterways, which is currently scheduled to be completed in 2015. The attorneys general requested that the study be completed according to its original timeline, by the end of 2012.

 

Boating Advocate Passes Away

A champion of recreational boating in Congress, former Senator Malcolm Wallop, died September 14, at age 78, at his ranch near Big Horn, Wyoming. Representing his home state of Wyoming in the Senate from 1977 to 1995, Wallop is best known for helping craft legislation that dramatically increased funding for boating and fishing grant programs in 1984. Formally titled the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund, it expanded excise taxes and import duties on fishing tackle, and added receipts from federal fuel taxes on gasoline used in motorboats, to fund boating and fishing programs in the states.

Within two years, funding increased six-fold, all paid for by boaters and anglers. It became known as the Wallop-Breaux Trust Fund in honor of the senator and its House champion, then-Representative John Breaux (see www.BoatUS.com/Magazine/2011/august/tbl.asp). With slight modifications, today it's the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, nicknamed the "Wallop-Breaux Fund." The States Organization for Boating Access gave its Outstanding Service Award to Wallop in 1994.

 

Tidewater: The Chesapeake Bay In Photographs

Cover photo of Tidewater: The Chesapeake Bay In Photographs

Many of the photos in Stephen Brown's new book were taken aboard his trusty 32-foot Bristol sailboat L'escargot, allowing him to explore the nooks and crannies of the Chesapeake Bay with a boater's intimacy. L'escargot takes pride of place as the last photo in the book. The rest is devoted to the photojournalist's beloved Bay and chronicles the 30-odd years he covered the various communities on the nation's largest estuary for national and international magazine assignments. He also recently published DC Photo Book: An Insider's View of Washington, DC. Both are available from the author's website, www.stephenbrownphoto.com.

 

Hostage: A Year At Gunpoint With Somali Gangsters

Paul and Rachel Chandler with Sara Edworthy (Mainstream Publishing)

Cover of Hostage: A Year At Gunpoint With Somali Gangsters

Most of us return from cruising with a yarn or two of squally weather, and engine dramas. Paul and Rachel Chandler were lucky to return at all. When they started a trip on their 38-foot boat Lynn Rival, after retiring in 2005, little did they realize they would inspire global headlines. Captured by Somali pirates in October 2009, they endured more than a year of terror, threats, and intimidation. Their book, written by each in turn (they spent much of the year separated), is the story of how they survived, but it's also a tender account of their devotion to each other, and ultimately a triumphant story of overcoming the odds.

 

Ice Blenders

Photo of men on the Chukchi Sea, with all white float coats

Camouflage is nothing new in flotation gear for hunters, but in the high Arctic, native hunters need to blend in with snow and ice, not trees and brush. With drowning the most common cause of accidental death among Alaska Natives, the state's boating safety office teamed up with Mustang Survival and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium to outfit 51 hunters, like these men on the Chukchi Sea, with all white float coats — call it "Arctic camo."End of story marker



 


Did You Know ...

1 Inch of extra depth under a cargo ship's keel in a a dredged channel, according to the National Ocean Service, means a ship can load an extra 9,600 laptop computers, 358,000 pounds of wheat, or 36 honking-big farm tractors. www.oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/features/-
sep11/inchwater.html
.

 

10,641

Expressed in meters, that's the record ocean depth at which scientists have recorded life forms, in this case a giant amoeba discovered in the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench. They measure four inches or more, large for a single-cell creature.

 

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