The Neabsco Creek Channel is home to a dozen locally-owned businesses, 800 boat owners and 50 jobs, and contributes over $100,000 in property taxes to Prince William County annually. The channel is also home to the Occoquan-Woodbridge-Lorton Volunteer Fire Department rescue vessel. So when the US Coast Guard replaced navigational aids with “Danger” signs due to low water depth, effectively closing the channel to boat traffic, it raised serious economic, safety, recreation, and quality of life concerns for many in the area.
Woodbridge District Supervisor Frank Principi has formed a stakeholder group that is moving forward with solutions, including completion of a US Army Corps of Engineers marine survey of the channel, reconsideration of the US Coast Guard decision, the possible temporary transfer of navigation aids to the state, local funding, and a dredging plan. The Prince William BOCS recently approved Supervisor Principi’s request to allocate $750,000 for dredging, a move championed by dozens of citizens during recent public hearings of the FY 2019 budget.
At issue is the depth of the channel between the marinas and the Potomac River. The US Coast Guard has decided not to replace the seasonal navigational aids as the depth does not conform to its internal policy requirement of six feet of depth. The US Army Corps of Engineers survey, conducted after the US Coast Guard decision, demonstrated channel depths that range from 3-8 feet of depth, depending on where you measure the 50-foot wide channel. The Coast Guard has indicated that the danger signs will remain in place until the channel is dredged. The marina owners reported to the stakeholder group that they cannot count on the dredging to be performed by the US Army Corps, as funding is not available for the approximate 90 small channels in the Baltimore District, which includes Neabsco Creek.
Meanwhile, Virginia Senator Scott Surovell and Virginia Delegate Luke Torian are working to secure state funding, and US Senator Tim Kaine and US Congressman Gerry Connolly are also engaged in the stakeholder group and assisting the effort. Supervisor Principi has hosted numerous meetings with stakeholders to identify a solution, provide the necessary funding, and briefed several media outlets to help tell the story. Most recently the stakeholder group laid out three different approaches for moving forward and will reconvene in two weeks to determine immediate next steps. Prince William residents are asked to show their support for these businesses and boaters and assist with solutions. See media coverage below.