Navigational Hazard in South Carolina: Boaters Beware Watts Cut

As of yesterday, a dangerous navigational hazard has not yet been marked at Watts Cut (AICW mile marker 503). A concrete pole was driven in an angle into the bottomland of the Intracoastal Waterway.,-80.359&z=1

Under certain tidal conditions, the pole cannot be seen above water.  Striking the pole at speed will result in a hole in the hull of many vessels. Under other conditions, striking the pole at an angle at speed may cause passengers to be thrown overboard. The Coast Guard has been alerted.

Of all the coastal counties through which the Intracoastal Waterway runs from Virginia to Florida, clearly the run through South Carolina poses the most risk for boaters on the Intracoastal Waterway.  From navigational hazards like this concrete pole to shoaling so severe a person can actually walk across the bottomland of the Waterway at low tide in some sections, the Palmetto State alone cannot maintain its waterway.  A missing link in a continuous inland waterway defeats the whole purpose of having a continuous waterway for pleasure or commercial purposes.  Congress still has not appreciated the millions of dollars spent by the megayacht and yachting industry.

Under federal law, the Waterway is to be maintained by the federal government through the Army Corps of Engineers.  Generally, the Waterway is to be kept at a depth of 12 feet.  Congress has failed to provide sufficient funds to the Army Corps of Engineers for maintenance. Fortunately, when the federal government assumed control over the old Florida East Coast Canal in 1929, Florida formed a special taxing district, the Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND), to provide the necessary easements and areas for the deposit of maintenance spoil required by the Corps of Engineers.  With federal funds lacking, FIND supplies 80% of the necessary funds to maintain the waterway through dredging in partnership with the Corps. The remaining states along the coast must rely on general state revenues.

In 1999, business interests in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida combined to form the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association to lobby Congress for adequate funding.  The stimulus program provided some but not enough to fill the long term needs of the Waterway. And the AIWA has made some progress on Capitol Hill, but there is still much work to be done.

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