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Work continues on harbor proposal for Washington

By Staff
Panel to ‘fine tune’ document before it goes to City Council
By MIKE VOSS
Contributing Editor
A pared committee will review the draft of a proposed harbor management plan for Washington before that plan is presented to the Washington City Council.
On Tuesday night, Washington’s Planning Board appointed two of its members, Jane Alligood and Dan McNeil, to the panel that will prepare the draft plan for submission to the council. The Planning Board members will be joined on the panel by Downtown Washington on the Waterfront’s appointees to the committee. Those appointees are Bill Sykes, Bob Jenks, David Emmerling, David Norwood, John Crew and Ray Midgett.
The draft plan is a collaborative effort involving the Planning Board and DWOW.
A group of about 30 people provided input for the draft plan. That group met in December to put the finishing touches on the draft plan. The Planning Board credited Sykes with doing an “excellent job” of preparing the draft plan. The board determined that 30 people would be too many to “fine tune” the draft plan.
The board did not indicate when the proposed plan would be forwarded to the city.
Washington’s new land-use plan, required by the Coastal Area Management Act, calls for the city to develop a harbor-management plan and a water-use plan. The land-use plan also calls for the city to establish mooring fields in some of the city’s waterways.
In an interview in August, Sykes, who owns property downtown and keeps a sailboat anchored in the Pamlico River, said he’s pleased the land-use plan includes a water-use plan and harbor management plan. Sykes also said he supports the land-use plan because it “further enhances access” to public-trust waters off the city’s shoreline.
Board members wondered if the N.C. General Assembly would have to provide enabling legislation for the city to implement a harbor-management plan that includes establishment of mooring fields. Bobby Roberson, the city’s director of planning and development, said he would research the matter and determine if enabling legislation is needed for the city to implement a harbor-management plan.
Roberson said the city should consult with Carolina Beach and Beaufort, two municipalities that have mooring fields, to find out how they went about establishing their mooring fields. In June, Sykes told the board he was modifying the Carolina Beach ordinance as part of his effort to develop a water-use plan that’s specific to Washington and its waterways and better meets the city’s needs when it comes to managing its waterways.
At a Planning Board meeting in April, Roberson and Lee Padrick, director of the N.C. Division of Community Assistance’s office in Washington. The state has few regulations concerning mooring fields, they said. And those regulations mostly address protecting the environment and not operation and management of mooring fields.
Interest in mooring fields intensified in the fall of 2006 when city planners conducted an informal meeting on the issue. Speakers’ remarks included support for mooring fields, concerns with how mooring fields could affect the river and reasons for installing mooring fields.
At that meeting, Charles S. Major, a Washington resident, said the Planning Board should determine the intent behind recommendations to install mooring fields. Major asked if the intent is to encourage boaters to leave the Intracoastal Waterway and visit Washington or is it to provide a place for area boat owners to moor their vessels on a permanent basis.
Also at that meeting, Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper Heather Jacobs said the sale of mooring fields in public-trust waters to private entities is something the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation would oppose, she said. Jacobs also noted the proposed site for the mooring fields — between the Norfolk Southern railroad trestle and the U.S. Highway 17 bridge — serves as a nursery area for many types of aquatic life.
At that meeting, Sykes said a mooring field would give the city more control over boats moored in the river than boats riding at anchor. Federal law allows boats to anchor anywhere in water except in navigational channels. Boats using city-owned mooring fields would be regulated by the city, Sykes noted.
For details about the draft plan, see future editions of the Washington Daily News.