2012-06-21 / News

Coast Guard gives town two weeks to correct buoy issue

Markers in West Passage do not meet its regulations
BY MARGO SULLIVAN

The Coast Guard has put town officials on notice about two buoys marking the entrance to the West Passage, said Chairman Michael de Angeli at the Harbor Commission’s June 13 meeting. The buoys do not meet Coast Guard regulations, according to Chief Petty Offi cer Gregg Marsili.

Jamestown has two weeks to correct the problem, the Coast Guard said in a June 4 letter addressed to the Jamestown harbormaster.

“A Coast Guard inspection was recently conducted in the Dutch Island area,” Marsili wrote in the letter. “Dutch Island Harbor Buoy 1 was reported as partially submerged and the appropriate numbering is missing on this lateral aid. Dutch Island Harbor Buoy 2 was reported as partially submerged, missing appropriate numbering on this lateral aid and its color is severely faded.”

The buoys cannot be repaired, said Sam Paterson, the harbormaster. He estimated the total cost would “come close to $12,000.”

That’s because the town must actually replace three buoys, not two, to satisfy the Coast Guard.

“We have eight channel buoys,” Paterson said. “They mark the channels coming in the east and west side, and there are certain regulations you have to follow.” Paterson went on to explain the four on the east side are fine.

The problem is, the four buoys on the west side. Only one – the No. 4 buoy – meets the standards. The No. 3 buoy is registered, but “it’s a small buoy.” It has to go because its size won’t match the other seven. The size and the lettering are supposed to be consistent. “It’s nothing new to us,” Paterson said.

The town replaced some buoys several years ago and put one substandard buoy in the channel. “Now, we’re at the point three buoys are no longer usable,” he said.

The commissioners voted unanimously to ask Police Chief Ed Mello, who serves as the commission’s executive director, to buy new buoys in time to meet the Coast Guard’s deadline. The money will come out of the Harbor Commission’s contingency fund.

The buoys are on the official government nautical National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration map, but the town is responsible for maintaining the buoys, which are considered private aids to navigation. The alternative would be to remove the buoys from the channel, but the town might be liable for boating accidents that ensued, Commissioner Ed McGuirl said.

In all, the town owns about 35 private aids to navigation, Mello said, including new ones purchased to mark conservation waters.

In other business, Harbor Clerk Kimberly Devlin asked the commissioners to consider purchasing an additional kayak rack for Maple Avenue. Devlin said kayakers rent the rack space, and a new rack, which would cost about $2,000, would pay for itself in two years.

She said she has a waiting list and about a dozen people have expressed interest.

The commissioners voted to approve the second rack. Patrick Driscoll, a member of the Conservation Commission, said his panel would like to help select the area around Maple Avenue where the new rack would be located.

“Siting can be an issue for the Conservation Commission,” he said, but added the panel is “fully supportive of access” to the water off Maple Avenue.

“We don’t want to put them in a swamp,” de Angeli said.

Driscoll, who filled in as Conservation Commission liaison to the Harbor Commission, also weighed in about a plan to install a floating dock by the Fort Getty boat ramp.

The conservation board opposes the floating dock because the waters are environmentally sensitive, he said. The existing ramp is grandfathered, but a new ramp would not be allowed in that location today.

“There would be more use and greater impact in a sensitive area,” de Angeli said. “You don’t want to see it expanded.”

The discussion about the floating dock came up because Town Councilor Bob Bowen has asked the Coastal Resources Management Council about installing the floating dock by the boat ramp. Bowen said he also discussed two other pending projects at Fort Getty – to repair outhauls and dolphins, and to install donated floats by the fishing pier.

The two other projects would qualify as maintenance of existing facilities, Driscoll said, and the Conservation Commission will not object. But installing a floating dock by the boat ramp would go beyond maintenance and could compromise the environment.

Bowen reported the CRMC wouldn’t have an issue with any of the projects, but de Angeli said he didn’t want to present all three projects together, particularly if the conservation panel had objections to one.

“I don’t really see why we would want to lump all three together,” he said. “How did the Fort Getty dock question come up anyway?”

“I mentioned that as one of things going on [at Fort Getty],” Bowen said.

“Why are you doing this?” de Angeli said. “I don’t mean to be rude, Bob. I’m glad you’re involved, but we do have a process.”

He asked Commissioner Larry Eichler, who serves as chairman of the facilities subcommittee, to review the three projects and suggest the next steps.

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