A public-private partnership to dredge Neabsco Creek is moving forward.
The creek needs to be dredged because the U.S. Coast Guard recently declared it too shallow to safely navigate by motorized watercraft.
In March, the U.S. Coast Guard abruptly removed the two navigational buoys they normally drop at the mouth of the creek at this time of year.
Instead, after a crew measured the depth of the waterway’s channel to be less than 4 feet, officials posted diamond-shaped white signs that say: “Danger – Shoal.”
The channel must be 5 feet deep to be considered safe for boat travel, so the move has been likened to closing the creek, which affects 12 businesses and about 50 jobs.
The creek is home to three privately-owned marinas that house about 1,000 recreational boats as well as a water-rescue boat belonging to a Prince William County volunteer fire department. The marinas also house a boat lift, used by larger vessels from across the region, and the only gas station in the region open 365 days a year.
The potential danger to recreational boaters is that they can be left stranded if their boats run aground, the Coast Guard said in a news release about the issue. Or, in cases where a vessel is traveling at a high speed, boaters can be ejected and suffer injuries or be killed.
But the danger to the three marinas, and a fourth that plans to open, is economic, as boaters may not want to visit the businesses at the creek if they perceive it’s unsafe.
“There’s danger signs, you know,” said Michael Hart, owner of EZ Cruz Marina.
Prince William County Supervisor Frank Principi, D-Woodbridge, and a coalition of community members and federal, state and local officials are trying to find a solution to the problem.
They have agreed that the four marinas would create a limited liability company to oversee the dredging. The LLC would have an eight-member board, a member representing each marina and four members from the public.
The coalition also decided that the budget for the entire project will be between $1 million and $1.7 million, depending on whether the creek is dredged to a depth of 5 feet or 6 feet. The Prince William Board of Supervisors agreed recently to provide $750,000 for the dredging, so that means the marina owners would have to come up with the rest, Principi said.
The dredging would take six weeks, and it would have to be done between July 1 and Feb. 15.
“So we think, with this price tag, with this window/timetable, with the LLC, we can get this done in this year actually,” Principi said. “That’s the good news.”
He also said the supervisors likely will discuss the matter June 19, and he praised the Neabsco Creek community for their work on it.
“The community identified a problem, and they’ve come together as a coordinated unit to deal with it,” he said.
Reach Jonathan Hunley at email@example.com.