Shoaling problem worsens at Jekyll marina
By MICHAEL HALLThe Brunswick News
In the absence of help from the federal government, a marina on Jekyll Island is taking the issue of shoaling along Jekyll Creek in the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway into its own hands. Jekyll Harbor Marina, 1 Harbor Road on Jekyll Island, is seeking a permit from the Coastal Marshlands Protection Committee and the Department of Natural Resources to dredge a 1,000-foot by 150-foot section of the creek directly under its boat slips to deepen the area to 10 feet at low tide. The marina’s general manager, Scott Todd, said the dredging is necessary to maintain a business that relies on large, non-commercial vessels with drafts around 6 feet deep. “The worst spots are 4 or 5 feet at mean low tide,” Todd said. But the creek is not much deeper and the marina’s need to dredge under its dock is a symptom of a larger problem, Todd said. “I wish the dredging was in the creek instead,” Todd said. Popular boating enthusiast websites like Cruisers.net list waterway portions in Glynn County as some of the shallowest on the East Coast. Todd has heard the complaints from customers like Joe Fox and his wife, Joyce Fox, who arrived at the marina for the first time Thursday. The couple’s sailboat, Shoban II, has a keel that requires a draft close to 6 feet. “It gets pretty hairy,” Joe Fox said. “We almost ran aground coming in (Thursday).” It is so shallow that most charts of the waterway do not even attempt to recommend a route through the area, Fox said. “It’s probably the only place where they don’t,” Fox said. And he and his wife would know. The couple, along with their Jack Russell Terrier, Matey, have been traveling the East Coast in their boat since December and are on their way home to Apollo Beach, Fla. It was there where a similar problem arose. The waterway needed dredging, but the Army Corps of Engineers, responsible for waterway maintenance, did not have the funding to do it. When the waterway became too shallow, Fox said boaters would simply bypass the section by sailing into the open ocean, something he said would be tempting and easy to do when traveling through Glynn County. Boaters and yachtsmen have told The News in the past that they prefer to risk the open ocean than the waterway because of shoaling. “I bet it is costing this area big bucks in tourism,” Fox said. Boaters traveling up and down the coast often spend a lot of money at stores and on gas when stopped at marinas for a night or two, he said. In Apollo Beach, Fox said the community raised more than $1 million in four years to put towards dredging. Along with state and county governments, the funding goal was accomplished, he said. Andy MacLeod, a boater from Pennsylvania who was docked at the marina on Jekyll Thursday, said the issue will only get worse if not addressed. “There will come a day when this creek is 4 feet at mean low tide,” MacLeod said. That could very well happen in the foreseeable future. Billy Birdwell, spokesman for the Savannah District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said there is no funding in the president’s budget for dredging Jekyll Creek. The Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for maintaining the waterways. “We estimate it would cost $6 million to clear Jekyll Creek back to its authorized 12-foot depth if we can place the dredged material into Andrews Island Dredged Material Management Area,” Birdwell said. Andrews Island is used for silt removed from the port’s shipping channel, but it has not been used for waterway maintenance. Congress appropriates funds for dredging in the waterway based on the amount of commercial traffic. Passing pleasure craft traffic is not considered commercial, Birdwell said. Birdwell also noted that the Downing Musgrove Causeway connecting Jekyll Island to the mainland disrupts the natural currents that would keep the creek clear. “Therefore it refills with material quickly,” Birdwell said.
The truth here is that your Congressperson doesn’t give a hoot about the Intracoastal Waterway or he/she would be fighting to have funds allocated to the Army Corps of Engineers to get the dredging done.