Advocates for the boating community and Lockwood Folly Inlet in Brunswick County hope they won’t see a repeat of the tragedy that struck at Carolina Beach Inlet on November 7. What they would like to see is the navigational buoys put back.
Put simply, the U.S. Coast Guard’s new policy is to remove aids to navigation that are significantly off-site in shallow-draft inlets. The rationale is that buoys, or “cans,” as most boaters call them, should not be in place if they are not accurately depicting the channel. Giving boaters a false sense of security, Coast Guard officials have said, may be worse than having no cans at all.
The Coast Guard removed Carolina Beach Inlet’s cans after giving notice in early October. On November 7, four men in a fishing boat attempted to turn around in the inlet and capsized. One of the men, from Garner, drown.
No one directly linked the incident to the buoys but it was a point of concern at the Brunswick Shoreline Protection’s regular November 18 meeting. The question was why aids to navigation, including cans, could not be left in place when a dredging project was scheduled.
Layton Bedsole, shoreline manager for New Hanover County, said the Carolina Beach Inlet dredging project was finished on November 12 and the cans were back in place.
The issue applies to Lockwood Folly Inlet, where the Coast Guard has removed cans, although a maintenance dredging project is set for December.
“Pulling the cans is not the answer,” said Ryan Williams of the Lockwood Folly Association, a coalition of boaters. He said that having some guides for boaters, especially those unfamiliar with the area, was better than nothing.
Steve Stone, assistant Brunswick County manager, said officials responded to the concerns of the Coast Guard but did not persuade them to leave the cans in place at Lockwood Folly Inlet. The latest survey shows serious shoaling at the entrance.
Stone said the Coast Guard wanted a plan to keep the inlet open: he responded that there is a plan, and that county and local governments have utilized the state’s Shallow Draft Inlet fund to maintain the inlet for years. The issue was the availability of dredges and a commitment by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who set the schedule, he explained.
Stone said the county could not commit to funding the project annually without a specific number, but it had regularly participated in the ongoing project along with Oak Island and Holden Beach.
Dredging in the Lockwood Folly Inlet is expected in December.