A needed plan

Published 1:24 pm Thursday, March 20, 2008

By Staff
Washington may be on the path to making history in North Carolina as it pursues development and implementation of a harbor-management and water-use plan.
As it pursues that plan, the city is pursuing a permit for a mooring field in the Pamlico River off its waterfront.
Both are needed.
The city has no authority to regulate the use of its harbor waters (between the U.S. Highway 17 bridge and the railroad trestle). Because it lacks that authority, the city has no power to require boat owners to properly moor their vessels or to require the orderly removal of boats from the harbor in the event of an emergency or enforce sewage-disposal rules governing vessels in the harbor. To get that authority, the city likely will ask the General Assembly to approve special legislation granting that authority.
That’s something the city’s delegation to the General Assembly should do in next year’s long session of the Legislature. State Sen. Marc Basnight, president pro tempore of the state Senate, and state Rep. Arthur Williams should push for approval of such legislation. Basnight represents the city in the state Senate. Williams, a Beaufort County Democrat, represents Washington in the state House. If the legislation is approved, it would allow the city to apply city ordinances to the harbor and hire a harbor master to enforce those ordinances.
The proposed plan shows the city is being pro-active with an important issue instead of reacting to that issue.
With the number of boats visiting the city’s harbor or anchoring in it for either short-term or long-term stays, it makes sense for the city to have a harbor-management and water-use plan in place. Carolina Beach has a similar plan, but the town does not enforce its plan because it believes it does not have the authority to enforce it.
If Carolina Beach and other coastal cities and towns interested in implementing similar plans support Washington’s effort to ask the Legislature for the authority to establish a harbor-management and water-use plan, the better the chance of it getting that authority. The city may be plowing new ground when it comes to such a plan, but it’s ground that should be plowed.
The number of vessels calling the harbor home will increase because of growth, including boat slips built to serve Buoy Tender Station, Moss Landing and Harbourside Townehomes. Having a plan to deal with the increasing number of boats and their effects on the harbor is a must when it comes to protecting the river and the boats.
As the city works to get a permit for a mooring field, the proposed harbor-management and water-use plan will make its way through the Planning Board and City Council, which has final say on the plan. The council and mayor received copies of the draft plan Monday. The draft plan is a collaborative effort involving the Planning Board and Downtown Washington on the Waterfront.
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 Bill Sykes with doing an “excellent job” of preparing the draft plan.
Hopefully, at some point next year, the city will be able to credit Williams and Basnight for pushing through legislation that gives it the authority to implement its harbor- management and water-use plan.
That’s when city residents, boat owners and others can give credit to the city for developing a plan that protects the city’s harbor.