Full speed ahead

Published 10:50 am Wednesday, July 16, 2008

By Staff
Moments after Washington’s City Council accepted the proposed water use and harbor master plan for the city for review and likely implementation of at least some of the plan’s components, several people who attended the council’s meeting Monday applauded the council’s decision.
That applause is well-deserved. The council has taken an important step toward using one of its most-important assets, the Pamlico River, as an economic engine and to help the city return to a chapter in its history — serving as a hub for maritime-related activities in the Inner Banks. Also deserving of applause are the people who cobbled the plan. A group of about 50 people and organizations provided input for the plan.
The plan is the product of a committee that included a variety of stakeholders in how the city’s harbor and waterfront areas are used. Washington’s land-use plan, required by the Coastal Area Management Act and implemented in 2007, 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 accepting the plan, the council made it clear it will analyze it and determine which of its components the city may want to implement. The council also did something else in accepting the plan. It’s taken a proactive stance rather than a reactive stance when it comes to managing its harbor and waterfront areas.
The plan provides the city with strategies that allow the harbor to develop responsibly and avoid problems associated with that development. It also provides tools for the city to protect the harbor and river’s water quality. As a memorandum from Bobby Roberson, the city’s director of planning and development, to the mayor and council notes, the plan “supports and builds upon a number of policies and implementation strategies” that are included in the city’s land-use plan, shoreline-access plan and Renaissance Plan.
Several of the plan’s supporters who spoke at the council’s meeting Monday said the harbor can be the economic engine that helps the city once again become a major maritime community. But as much as they talked about the harbor’s potential for providing economic-development opportunities, they also talked about protecting the harbor’s environment.
An examination of the plan shows it provides safe standards for establishing mooring fields in the harbor. It also provides protection from pollution by prohibiting the dumping of boat sewage into the river. It contains provisions for dealing with derelict boats left in the harbor. It addresses the evacuation of nearly 400 boats that are docked or plans call for docking between the U.S. Highway 17 bridge and the railroad trestle at Washington’s waterfront.
He’s right. The plan is not a product of a bureaucratic agency but that of a group of concerned people and organizations. That’s why it should enjoy widespread support in the community. That’s why it should work.
The council decided to establish a panel to review the plan and recommend which parts of it the city should implement in phases. That panel should begin its work as soon as possible.
This is one plan the city must make sure does not take up space on a shelf and collect dust. There’s too much at stake for the plan, or at least most of it, not to be put into action.
When it comes to implementing the plan, it should be full speed ahead.