The Marina at Carolina Beach. (Port City Daily/Johanna Ferebee)
CAROLINA BEACH — Most people would probably not be happy about new neighbors pulling up in their backyard with an RV, dumping waste on the lawn, and abandoning their vehicles when they no longer want to keep up with maintenance — all while paying nothing in property tax.
That’s why there are laws against doing such things — at least on land. But laws are not as strong or as easily enforced on water.
Carolina Beach, for example, has been facing increasing problems in its waterways, from abandoned vessels to people deciding to live aboard their boats in the harbor. Now, town staff along with elected officials are looking for ways to address some of these issues.
The issues of abandoned boats or boats overstaying their welcome has been discussed during Town Council meetings in the past, but little action has taken place as of yet. Town Manager Ed Parvin received out to Major of Administration Ben Meyer of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission looking for guidance dealing with these issues.
“The Town of Carolina Beach has struggled with enforcement of boating regulations in our harbor area for years. We had the attached Harbor and Shoreline Act adopted by the NC General Assembly in 2010 to give us more authority in the harbor area. This act was done simultaneously with a municipal mooring field the town installed and continues to manage,” Parvin wrote.
From overstaying a welcome to dumping sewage
There are three major issues Parvin said the town is experiencing: Long term anchorages, difficulties matching owners with registration, and possible ‘liveaboards’ dumping sewage into the waters.
“Many boat owners have moved away from marinas and started anchoring in the harbor. Unless they are abandoned we can’t take action under our current code. These vessels either sink or break anchor,” Parvin said, regarding the long-term anchorages.
It’s also difficult tracking down the owner of boats once they have been sold and lost to the process of transferring owners.
When it comes to the illegal dumping of sewage, Parvin said, “We have multiple anchored vessels that are housing liveaboards. They are most likely dumping sewage into our waters but we don’t have a procedure to check/enforce.”
Parvin also said he is considering several changes to help alleviate some of the issues.
- “Creating anchorage setbacks from the channel, Wildlife boat launch, town’s pier head line, marsh areas (we have a small marsh island in the center of myrtle grove sound within our jurisdiction).
- Requiring anchored vessels to register and pay a registration fee
- Eliminate liveaboards in the harbor area.
- Partner with the state on implementation of an enforcement/inspection program to enforce no discharge zone.
- Strengthen local law on when a vessel is considered abandoned.
- Clarify enforcement process to outline enforcement procedures for officers”
The Town of Wrightsville Beach has also struggled with regulating their waterways and just recently revisited their own policies dealing with similar issues.
The town ultimately decided to restrict the length of time boats could remain anchored in town-controlled navigatable channels. Even though the town might now ‘own’ the water of the Intracoastal and Banks Channel, it is given extraterritorial jurisdiction and the right to police the waters.
In Brunswick County, regulations to deal with abandoned vessels have been put in place stating, “It is recognized that boating and watercraft use in our community is a widely enjoyed form of leisure and recreation. It is equally recognized that some owners do not safely and properly dispose of their boats or watercraft.”
The law goes on to explain how the county can regulate, enforce, and even dispose of boats that have been abandoned.
Parvin concluded his email stating that he along with town staff would begin revising and drafting new regulations to hopefully address the issues the town is facing.
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