Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Intracoastal Has Become a Deterrent to Boaters; Kingston and Others Are Looking for a Solution to Extremely Low Water

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Intracoastal Has Become a Deterrent to Boaters; Kingston and Others Are Looking for a Solution to Extremely Low Water

Article excerpt

Byline: MIKE MORRISON

BRUNSWICK - When a boat runs aground in the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway near Brunswick, Seatow Services is likely to receive a call.

But it's the kind of business the company that assists boaters in distress can do without.

Seatow would prefer to see a clear channel in the waterway, or ICW, rather than the treacherous obstacle course it has become in recent years, company operations manager Henry Wynn said.

Because of budget cuts, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been unable to maintain the 12-foot depth at low tide promised when Congress established the inland waterway in 1919. The waterway stretches 1,200 miles from Norfolk, Va., to Key West. Dredging has been severely limited since 2001, and sections in Georgia have become nearly impassable at certain tide stages.

While the problem may improve a segment of its business, Seatow suffers along with other marine industries as some boaters avoid the Georgia coast, Wynn said.

"The ICW in Georgia is a stay-away-from area for a lot of larger yachts," Wynn said. "They know there are issues with the draft in certain areas."

Realizing that full federal funding likely will not be restored, Seatow and other members of the Georgia Marine Business Association are joining U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., as he explores options to deepen the waterway.

Boaters' complaints have increased in recent years as people continually run aground damaging their vessels and, in some cases, getting injured, Kingston said.

"But the federal government can't keep up with the cost of dredging," he said.

LOWEST WATER IS 2 FEET

Rose Wilson, office manager at Golden Isles Marina on the edge of St. Simons Sound, said the silting in of the waterway has had a noticeable impact.

"The ICW shallows are getting more dangerous and more critical," and some boaters are no longer coming, she said.

Two problem areas in the Brunswick area are Jekyll Creek and Little Mud River, Wynn said.

"The worst one is Jekyll Creek, from the St. Simons Sound to the Jekyll causeway," he said.

Army Corps of Engineers data compiled this month show the depth at low water in Jekyll Creek as 2 feet, which is too shallow for most motor yachts and sailboats longer than 30 feet. …

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