Dredging in Prince William County’s Neabsco Creek hasn’t happened in two decades, but after an uproar over channel markers being removed and replaced with signs warning people away — right at the kickoff of boating season — officials are weighing options for securing funding to dredge the area and save the waterway access.
The U.S. Coast Guard installed the new “danger” signs last month, without advance notice, stumping the dozen small businesses, including three marinas, and dozens of workers who make a living from recreational boating along the Potomac.
The new navigational signs, some fear, could cripple business in this Woodbridge community 20 miles south of the nation’s capital — or worse, be the beginning of the end for a community with a deep boating tradition…
…In the Woodbridge area, the Coast Guard found Neabsco Creek too shallow to erect the red and green navigational aids that are installed each spring, Runt said. The water levels were under four feet in some areas, he said, below the six feet required to install the smallest buoy — a floating navigational mark — in the Coast Guard’s inventory. The Army Corps of Engineers said the channel’s authorized depth is five feet.
But marina owners contend the water’s depth hasn’t changed significantly in over a decade and question the timing of the Coast Guard’s measurements — a few days after a major wind storm hit the region, displacing water. The Coast Guard said its crew arrived a week after the March 2 storm, when normal water levels were expected.
The water depths on Neabsco Creek have varied for years from four to five feet along the channel, users say, enough to allow boaters to safely take their vessels in and out.
They hope a marine survey conducted by the Corps of Engineers last week will prove them right and lead the Coast Guard to take down the danger signs they say are already deterring visitors…
…Boating is important to the economy in Woodbridge, which has access to the Occoquan and Potomac rivers in the eastern part of Prince William. The three marinas on Neabsco Creek have a combined 600 boat slips and space to store another 400 on land.
They generate $5 million in revenue annually and contribute nearly $100,000 in property taxes, according to the county…
…Prince William Supervisor Frank Principi (D-Woodbridge) and state Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) have been advocating on behalf of the businesses.
“This is also a statewide problem all over the tidal Chesapeake Bay watershed,” Surovell said.