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    • Changes in Store for Ladys Island Swing Bridge? AICW Statute Mile 536

      Ladys Island Swing Bridge has had conflicts between road traffic and vessel openings for several years, see /?p=35995. Our thanks to good friend, John Kettlewell, for sending along this article from Sounding’s Trade Only section, prompting several well-said comments. With a closed vertical clearance of 30ft, Ladys Island Bridge crosses the waterway at Statute Mile 536.

      See /?p=147653 for a 4/3 response from USCG 7th District.

      Coast Guard seeks limits on bridge openings in South Carolina
      Posted on March 23rd, 2015
      Motorists won’t have to stop as much for openings of a major South Carolina barrier island swing bridge, but operators of large recreational vessels might have to find a new route.
      The Coast Guard is planning a trial run in April to limit the number of large boats that pass through the Richard V. Woods Memorial Bridge in tourist destination Beaufort, S.C.
      Known locally as the Woods Bridge, the swing bridge connects downtown Beaufort with Lady’s Island and the outer Sea Islands in Beaufort County. Because of the presence of the Intracoastal Waterway, the bridge is required to open frequently for boat traffic to pass through.
      Details of the trial period are pending from officials with the Coast Guard bridge division in Miami. However, local officials believe it will include restrictions on the hours when non-commercial vessels can pass through.
      `If it’s a commercial vessel, it’s one thing, but if it’s a pleasure boat, it’s another,’ city interim manager Bill Prokop told The Beaufort Gazette.
      Log-book records show that the swing bridge opened nearly 4,000 times during a two-year period, with 660 of those for commercial boats.
      In October, Beaufort County and Beaufort city officials sent a letter to the Coast Guard bridge branch requesting a change in when and why the bridge opens, county engineering director Rob McFee said. The vehicle traffic delays cause an estimated $2 million loss annually for the community because of lost time and other economic factors, the letter said.
      County and city officials requested restrictions on the passage of non-commercial boats during daytime rush hours.
      `Not only do the drawbridge openings affect daily traffic and local economics, it also has a dramatic effort on emergency response. A revision in the opening schedule could potentially resolve many of the resulting daily impacts,’ the letter stated, according to the paper.

      I’m a resident of Lady’s Island and an active cruising boater. The issue involving the proposed limiting of the Woods Bridge to two waterway openings during the day is ludicrous. Much of the issue involving increased auto traffic out onto Lady’s Island is brought about by allowing the building of big box stores out on the Island. The cost to build a road over a bridge is very high, so why do we encourage increased traffic loads on our bridges by bringing people from the mainland to an Island to shop?
      The Woods Bridge is already on a restricted opening schedule during rush hours and on the hour and half hour during the rest of the day. Many sailboats typically spend a night in Beaufort. It’s a two day run for them from Charleston, and a full day run from Savannah, so they arrive late afternoon and leave early morning, and need the bridge opened so they can head north or arrive going south. If they miss these two opening times, they are screwed!
      Let’s be good county/city planners, and keep the big box stores off the Island and keep the auto traffic down so we can keep the AICW functional.
      Charles Gorgen
      Consultant, Marine and Industrial Lifting Systems

      We are active boaters who depend on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (A-ICW) for safe travel north and south each spring and fall. We have recently become aware of a proposal requested by the City of Beaufort, SC, which would limit the opening schedule of the Woods Bridge (Lady’s Island Bridge) in Beaufort, SC, to just two openings during the business day. This letter is based on my understanding that the City of Beaufort has proposed a schedule of openings at 10h00 and 14h00 daily, so essentially, every four hours.
      For the USCG Bridge Branch, allowing such a schedule is not consistent with the public interest and would be a violation of the public trust and public responsibility. It would also be a seriously negative precedent for the United States’ network of Federal Intracoastal Waterways.
      For the City of Beaufort, it demonstrates an utter disregard for the needs, safety and wellbeing of ICW users. It is irresponsible of the City of Beaufort to propose such restrictive conditions on top of already severe restrictions. Whatever happened to the City’s promise years ago to return to a 1/2 hours opening schedule after the completion of the second span of the south bridge?
      Improperly planned over-deveopment on Lady’s Island is not justification to confiscate access to the public trust waterways of the United States. The dual bridges at the south end of Lady’s Island provide access for emergency responders. The second span was justified in part based upon just that access. If emergency response capability on Lady’s Island is inadequate, that is the fault of inadequate city and county planning, not the fault of waterway users. South Carolina has utterly failed to maintain it’s waterways, and many areas near Beaufort have become impassible at low tide in throughout the region. The entire ICW region from the Savannah River in the South through Georgetown in the North has been allowed to shoal and presents a serious hazard to navigation interests at low tide. Being confined by daily waterway closures in Beaufort affects the safe transit of boaters through the entire 200 mile region.
      Having to deal with the natural tide cycle against an artificial schedule of man-made waterway closure creates potentially dangerous conditions. The passage of summer thunderstorms does not respect the time-of-day. The proposed confiscatory schedule creates a severe hardship for waterway users. Weather, poor waterway maintenance and short hours of daylight create dangerous conditions for waterway users forced to out-wait lengthy waterway closures.
      This proposal is inappropriate and disrespectful of the public trust for federal waterways.
      Peg and Jim Healy aboard Sanctuary

      Well said Jim. You’re one of the many `regulars’ that use the AICW every spring and fall. If Wal Mart wants to build a store on Lady’s Island, maybe Wal Mart should build a third, high bridge, out to the Island, not create over taxing of the existing bridges such as to further restrict bridge openings.
      Hope to see you as you pass through Beaufort in a few weeks.
      Chuck Gorgen
      Consultant, Marine and Industrial Lifting Systems

      Click Here To View the Cruisers’ Net’s South Carolina Bridge Directory Listing For Ladys Island Bridge

      Comments from Cruisers (12)

      1. Miami -  May 24, 2015 - 7:38 am

        We are sitting at Beaufort waiting for a 9am opening on Sunday morning since 6 this morning. Three boats have called for an opening.
        This is criminal and we must email. call do what ever we can to stop this insanity.
        There is no way to make Charleston in one day or come the other way.
        Please write all SC relevant politicians, Beaufort officialdom and the CG!

        Reply to Miami
      2. John Kettlewell -  April 3, 2015 - 11:36 am

        I suspect this is just an opening salvo from Beaufort in the hopes they can get the openings cut back to once an hour. Even then, it would cause a bottleneck for cruising boaters. When southbound there are some reasonable anchoring opportunities near the bridge, but when northbound the best bet would be to simply motor up and down the river until the next opening. All of these anchorages are current swept and not comfortable, except in the calmest conditions. Tieing up to the seawall south of the bridge is theoretically possible, but it is rough and not a comfortable spot. Even with the current schedule a lot of boaters get caught waiting for the bridge until after dark during the fall migration.

        Reply to John
      3. Capt David Burnham -  April 3, 2015 - 5:50 am

        I can see all vessels on the AICW over 30 feet in height quickly becoming registered commercial vessels…eh?

        Reply to Capt
      4. Capt David Burnham -  April 3, 2015 - 5:48 am

        So the best solution to the whole problem is a new canal from Cowen Creek to the Morgan River. That would move the swing bridge to southeast of the airport on hwy 21 and keep the residents of Lady’s Island smiling…:D

        Reply to Capt
      5. Capt David Burnham -  April 3, 2015 - 5:20 am

        Changing to a once an hour bridge opening would require a place on the Beaufort waterfront northeast of the swing bridge where boats can tie up to wait for the bridge to open or until a commercial vessel comes along. This is the solution on the Okeechobee Waterway in Florida while waiting for the locks to open on schedule.
        I have had to put my 33′ 6.5 foot draft sailboat aground to avoid a commercial tug and barge at the swing bridge when the northbound barge decided to use the northerly side opening that I had lined up to use for my southbound course. Fortunately for me, the second tug detached from the barge and came over and pulled me off the hard sand bottom AND the bridge tender left the bridge open until I cleared the opening.
        A 65′ bridge at this location would only bring the ire of owners of vessels who require 70′ or more of clearance…but boaters are used to being the martyrs when it comes to automotive traffic or private waterfront property owners who demand the boating public fall on their swords for their minority interests.

        Reply to Capt
      6. Wally Moran -  April 2, 2015 - 6:56 pm

        That’s 4 openings a day. Since we don’t know how many are on weekends, or before the scheduled morning shutdown, we can’t evaluate just how big a problem this really is, can we? Frankly, it seems that City Hall is giving in to a bunch of whining.
        And this $2 million in lost economic activity? Crap. Who ‘estimated’ that? Where is the proof of it? How about the opposite side of that coin, people staying downtown to avoid an opening and spending a little more? That’s every bit as valid an estimation as this one.
        Beaufort SC has made a HUGE deal out of wanting to be ‘boater’ friendly, and have done a superb job of it thus far, as I should know, having led 18 sailboats there on a sponsored rally last fall. The city showed us a wonderful time, for which I again thank them.
        One of the participants, now heading north, is making a point of spending two further weeks there to continue exploring and enjoying the town. That’s how great it was. Several more will be stopping for overnights or multiple days.
        This may just change their plans – Beaufort risks losing all the ground it has made on attracting boaters with this foolish plan.

        Reply to Wally
      7. Jim Healy -  April 2, 2015 - 3:19 pm

        Make no mistake, this is another test case pitting boaters and boating interests against shore-side communities. Beaufort has been unfriendly about that bridge for years. (I always called it the Lady’s Island Bridge.) This is the same issue boaters face with “All Aboard Florida.” A precedent here will spread like wildfire along the ICW. Imagine the pain getting through places like Wrightsville Beach, NC!

        Reply to Jim
      8. James Newsome -  March 30, 2015 - 8:19 am

        The proposal, if accepted and adopted by the USCG Bridge Branch, will change the operating schedule for privately owned boats to the bridge opening only at 10:00AM, 2:00PM, and unrestricted from 6:30PM to 6:30AM. Essentially, boater will only have two opportunities to pass through the bridge during normal traveling hours – 10 am and 2 pm.

        Here’s contact information for the folks making this request and the USCG Bridge Branch. I think they need to hear from the cruising community. Also, there doesn’t appear to be a provision for any period of public input other than direct contact with these folks. In particular, I suggest reaching out to the two USCG contacts listed. The ultimate decision is theirs and there is no guarantee that the local government officials in Beaufort will relay our concerns since they are asking for the change.

        United States Coast Guard District Seven
        Bridge Administration Branch
        Miami, Florida
        Chief, Bridge Branch
        Mr. Barry Dragon
        (305) 415-6743

        Bridge Permit Section
        Mr. William (Gwin) Tate
        (305) 415-6747

        Beaufort County, SC Administrator
        Gary Kubic
        County Administration Building
        100 Ribaut Road, Beaufort, SC 29902
        Post Office Drawer 1228, Beaufort, SC 29901
        Phone: (843) 255-2026

        Beaufort County CitizenGram Feedback Form

        City of Beaufort , SC
        William A. Prokop
        Interim City Manager
        1911 Boundary Street
        Beaufort, SC 29902
        (843) 525-7070

        Reply to James
      9. Jill Hough -  March 27, 2015 - 3:35 pm

        This bridge is already closed to recreational boats on weekdays from 7-9am and 4-6pm. What further “weekday rush-hour” restrictions can they be asking for?
        It seems that South Carolina is determined to make impossible an ICW passage through the state, with the lack of dredging, and now what seems will be an onerous change to an already restricted bridge opening schedule.
        Jill Hough

        Reply to Jill
      10. Lee Haefele -  March 26, 2015 - 5:55 am

        The Ladys Island Bridge is already closed 7-9AM and 4-6PM, I am not sure how they can say that there is a problem in rush hour. There is a particular problem, fully caused by the City of Beaufort, SC. When southbound the bridge blocks access to the City Marina. The bridge is closed until 6PM and then the marina PROMPTLY closes at 6PM, exactly when boats arrive needing dockage. There are long traffic tie-ups in daytime non rush hours at the bridge. This is an area of strong, changing, reversing currents. It is not possible for a displacement boat to estimate their arrival time. If the bridge schedule is cut back, many boaters will have long waits as it is not possible to change speed enough, given the currents, to meet the opening times at this location. It would seem that this is a candidate for a new 65′ fixed bridge.

        Reply to Lee
        • Fran H -  March 15, 2016 - 11:51 pm

          I live on Lady’s Island and work in Burton. If anyone traveling from Beaufort to Lady’s Island or the outer Islands thinks there is NOT a traffic problem when this bridge opens and closes, they are delusional. I’ve lived at my residence since 1976. The growth on the Lady’s Island side is enormous and once the Wal-Mart is built, it will be a nightmare. It already is when the Woods Bridge breaks down. The McTeer Bridge is not adequate to accommodate traffic to or from Lady’s Island, St. Helena, Fripp Island, etc. The only solution to this issue is to build another bridge or limit the bridge openings. Traffic backs up well beyond Bellamy Curve during rush hours in the evening. I can’t even imagine what traffic is going to be like should a hurricane head to Beaufort. Well, actually I can. During Hurricane Fred it took two hours to get from Lady’s Island to the National Cemetary on Boundary… and 11 hours to get to Atlanta. People will need to evacuate Beaufort a week in advance of hurricane at the rate the population of Beaufort is growing on the Lady’s Island side.

          Reply to Fran
      11. Cap'n Geech -  March 25, 2015 - 8:23 pm

        I can see it now… I come up to Lady’s Island bridge on my 135′ commercially documented mega-yacht and I’m denied an opening. The $12 an hour dip schitt on the switch cannot understand the difference between a multi-million dollar piece of hardware and a POS dragger headed for home. Arguement ensues leading to my calling USCGD7 and get the same lame response. Twice an hour, I can handle. Once an hour would infuriate me!!

        Reply to Cap'n
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