On Watch

Little Creek Position Paper

by Ed Tillett, Editor-in-Chief, General Manager - June 22, 2018

June 20, 2018

 

Mr. Doug Beaver, City of Norfolk Military Affairs Liaison

Mr. Thomas Walker, Chief, Regulatory Branch, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Norfolk District

Mr. Scott Mohr, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Navy, Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story

 

Gentlemen:

I’ve been in touch with Chief of the Regulatory Branch at Norfolk District Army Corps of Engineers, Thomas Walker, and the Public Affairs officer at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Scott Mohr, regarding the proposed expansion of the Restricted Area into Little Creek inlet. I’ve also spoken with several property owners and marina facilities in the Little Creek basin regarding the proposal.

Our company, Waterway Guide Media, is a 70-year old publisher of the nation’s leading guidebooks for boaters and yachts, in addition to apps, a magazine and other media channels. We are headquartered in Middlesex County, VA and have offices in Richmond, the Bahamas, Florida and Cincinnati, OH.

We saw this notice earlier this week in the Federal Register and were alerted to it by some of our marina contacts in Norfolk. I was raised in Norfolk and have used Little Creek for most of my life as a boater, so am familiar with the waterway there, as well as the ongoing redevelopment of East Ocean View, East Beach and surrounding neighborhoods. I visit there often.

Our staff has reviewed the proposal that is in front of the Army Corps of Engineers, cross referenced it against the current regulations in place, and evaluated the NOAA chart 12254 for Little Creek specific to the existing Emergency Restricted areas and Exclusion zones (notes G and H, respectively.)

As skippers, boat owners and representatives of marina clients and communities who promote and market their locations to our readers across the U.S., we see no relevancy in the proposal of establishing a “permanent restricted area” beyond what the Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story maintains currently for its activities and mission requirements. 

If we are interpreting the proposal accurately, regardless of what intent the leadership of JEB Little Creek-Fort Story may have in pursuing this effort, designating the entire Little Creek channel / inlet as Restricted will place a monumental burden on every vessel entering the channel. Further, the proposal has no obvious merit beyond the opinion of a select few who have suggested that it may create a more secure environment for JEB assets and personnel, if that is their intent.

As written, the new regulation would require every vessel entering the inlet to radio Little Creek Port Control (a military entity) to state their intentions and destination via VHF-FM radio channel 12. Thousands of vessels transit Little Creek inlet each year. No vessel under 65 foot is required by law or U.S. Coast Guard regulations to maintain a VHF radio on board their vessel. What are those vessels to do? Even for those boats that maintain a VHF radio, the proposed restriction must be conveyed to, and understood by, users in order for them to comply. And what of those who do not comply? Will they be stopped, searched, interviewed by a military security vessel? In the inlet? Upon arrival? How will the enforcement action be undertaken? By whom? 

What economic burden will this place on the property owners and businesses that call Little Creek home? If the entire channel becomes a Restricted Zone, and thus a military installation, those private entities will undoubtedly suffer from decreasing visitation by boaters who use their facilities because they will be reluctant to enter, or simply not enter, a Restricted Zone. And, as soon as JEB Little Creek-Fort Story on-the-water security personnel begin enforcing their areas of responsibility, the word will travel fast. Boaters simply will not go there. 

The proposal contains no language specific to how the Restricted Zone will be enforced. What plans are in place today, and how may those plans evolve, if Restricted status is granted?

Regardless of what JEB Little Creek-Fort Story security, Public Works, Commanding Officer and/or others believe, this proposal is clearly not in the best interests of private vessels, skippers, captains, charter boat owners, kayakers, canoeists, marinas, property owners or any stakeholder that uses, or has used, Little Creek inlet to access the Chesapeake Bay and beyond. The inlet, in various forms, has been part of the culture and used by the nautical community since the 1600’s and is considered a shared resource.

JEB Little Creek-Fort Story is a great asset to our community. We are fortunate to have both facilities in our cities. However, the installation has in place specific Restricted areas (Note H, NOAA Chart 12254) for its property and a regulation to invoke emergency restrictions (Note G, NOAA Chart 12254) in Little Creek channel, when required. Additional jurisdictional management of Little Creek is not needed and is not in the best interests of Commonwealth of Virginia residents, city property owners, area businesses, and visiting boaters to the watershed. Six marinas and over 1,000 private boats slips are located inside Little Creek harbor, in addition to boat brokerages, restaurants and other businesses that all depend on boat traffic and owners. This is a severely unbalanced, if not myopic, proposal by JEB Little Creek-Fort Story. 

Waterway Guide Media will post ongoing developments of this issue in its various media channels and encourage comments to the Army Corps of Engineers. We will maintain as an objective position as possible, but we are in total opposition to this proposal for the reasons stated above. 

 

Sincerely,

Ed Tillett

Editor-in-Chief, General Manager

Waterway Guide Media

 

Copy:

Mr. Jeff Jones, Publisher

Mr. Ted Stehle, Senior Adviser, Contributing Editor

Mr. Graham Jones, V.P. Business Development

Ms. Jani Parker, Managing Editor

Ms. Lisa Suhay, News Editor

Mr. John Cobb