Waterway battle between local boaters and Navy

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NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A waterway war is brewing between the Navy and local boaters.

The military wants to put new regulations on a channel in Norfolk and it’s not sitting well with some boaters.

Civilians and the military currently share the Little Creek channel, except for restricted waterways that lead directly to Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek – Fort Story.  The new regulations would require boaters to call the Navy before entering the channel, and that’s the part people aren’t thrilled about.

“If you mind your helm and where you’re going, you can steer clear of those areas, said Navy veteran Andrew Spittler.  “The way the restricted areas are set up now, they’re not infringing on the boats’ passage.”

Spittler lives on a boat in one of the marinas, so he travels on those waterways often.  He’s not thrilled by the Navy’s proposed new restrictions.

“They’re taking what is a public waterway and they’re restricting the entire waterway,” said Spittler.

The Navy wants to boaters to radio to JEB Little Creek – Fort Story if they want access to the outer harbor, which currently they do not have to do.

“I personally don’t believe it’s the best proposal and I honestly don’t believe its going to provide any more security,” Spittler said.

Spittler also fears the regulations would push people away from the area.  He said, “As word gets around that this area’s restricted, boats are going to leave, people aren’t going to come to the local marinas or local boatyards, that’s money lost.”

The Navy says it wants the new regulations for increased security.  Spittler says he understands that, but thinks there are other solutions. 

“I think you need boots on the water, so to speak,” said Spittler.  “Boots on the water means barriers, sentries, and patrol boats, not somebody calling in on a radio.” 

One of his suggestions: floating barriers in the inner harbor.

Spittler said, “We’re not trying to put the Navy down, we’re not trying to disregard the need for security, but we also need to understand that this is a public waterway and just blocking it off isn’t going to solve your security problems.”

Ultimately, he thinks there is a compromise, it’s just a matter of navigating to it.

The public comment period to the Army Corps of Engineers ended at the beginning of this month, but Spittler says there was never a public hearing, which he asked them to hold.  The Navy says it is reviewing the public comments it did receive. 

You can view the full proposal on the Army Corps of Engineers website. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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