2011-12-22 / Front Page

Panel votes to revise harbor ordinance

Coast Guard sends memo to town telling it to register all water buoys, markers
BY MARGO SULLIVAN

The harbor commissioners are not finished with the Harbor Management Ordinance, it turns out. The panel voted at its Dec. 14 meeting to update the new ordinance, this time to establish how the local authority will regulate private aids to navigation.

The private markers and signs turned into an issue after the U.S. Coast Guard’s Chief Petty Officer Gregg Marsili on Oct. 17 sent the Town Council a notice about 11 channel markers, signs and buoys, which the Coast Guard had never approved, but which the USCG Auxiliary discovered over the summer in Jamestown Harbor, Dutch Harbor and Mackerel Cove.

For example, two of the signs in Mackerel Cove identified a swimming area, and a sign near the Conanicut Marina warned of a danger from rocks.

“The U.S. Coast Guard has no record of these aids ever being permitted,” Marsili said. Unless they’re registered, channel markers and signs are considered hazards to navigation.

“I realize that some of these aids may have been placed there by a private citizen or private entity other than the town,” a letter signed by Marsili said. He added that he was merely asking the harbormaster to require the owners to register the navigational aids or take them out of the water.

Andrew Kallfelz, vice chairman of the Harbor Commission, said some private clubs, such as the Conanicut Yacht Club, had, in fact, dropped some of the markers in the water, but if the Coast Guard planned to hold the town responsible, and not the club, then the town should require private clubs or individuals to register the private navigation aids with the harbormaster.

Kim Devlin, the harbor clerk, verified the Coast Guard had been specific that Jamestown was to be held responsible.

“They feel we’re responsible,” she said. “A lot of them are town buoys.”

Kallfelz replied, “I know some of them are not. My real question is, should we put it on our agenda? They need to be permitted somehow by us.”

If so, Michael de Angeli, the Harbor Commission chairman, said then the new permitting process would have to be added to the ordinance.

By the time Marsili’s letter came to light, the Harbor Commission had already finished its work on the new harbor ordinance. The Town Council adopted it on Nov. 7.

But updating the new ordinance was not going to be a simple matter of adding a definition about a special mooring category, de Angeli said.

“It filters through a lot of sections,” he said.

“I know it’s not trivial,” Kallfelz added, and the commissioners considered all the alternatives and explored all the options before they concluded they had no choice other than to revise the 24-page document to deal with signs and markers as a special class of mooring.

Initially, the panel debated whether Jamestown could solve the permitting issue by using the Coast Guard’s web-based registry.

After a discussion with Sam Paterson, the harbormaster, they agreed that was not the right solution and the Harbor Commission would have to step up. Otherwise, Paterson would lack the enforcement powers to remove channel markers and buoys dropped anywhere in Jamestown waters, as long as the owners had obtained the Coast Guard’s OK.

The way it should work, Paterson said, the harbormaster should approve or deny the request for a private sign or buoy and then the registration should go on to the Coast Guard for approval.

“I agree we should be the place of first resort when someone wants to drop a marker,” de Angeli said.

In other business, Jim Rugh, president of the East Passage Estates, sent the commissioners a letter asking for a sign across from Carr Lane, identifying the area as a right of way to the public mooring field at Cranston Cove.

“We feel the Harbor Commission should request the town to install a sign indicating that this area across from Carr Lane is public access,” he wrote.

The town, Rugh went on to say, should also maintain the public access. “Brush and obstructions should be cleared, a foot bridge across the drainage areas be installed, and the area must be mowed on a regular basis.”

The public access, Rugh said, is about the “only legal way” for people not in the association to reach the Cranston Cove mooring field. The illegal way is trespassing on East Passage Estates land, and although the association has installed a gate and signs to discourage trespassers, Rugh said the town should “mark and maintain the public access so there is an acceptable, legal way for people to reach the beach and mooring field.”

Paterson confirmed Carr Road, which runs all the way to the water, was indeed a right of way but said the “maintenance has kind of fallen apart.” The roadbed was washed out and needed to be graded and filled to make it passable again, he said.

“We should have the right of way cleaned up properly,” de Angeli said, and the commissioners referred the letter to the Town Council for action.

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