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Back You are here: Home News Local and State News Local Town Manager Updates Public On Army Corp Snow's Cut Project

Town Manager Updates Public On Army Corp Snow's Cut Project

Click image for larger view: The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers is planning to obtain a change of status for land they own along Snow's Cut - the Intracoastal Waterway - in Carolina Beach. This includes erecting a fence around the property that sits between residential homes and the waterway.

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers is planning to obtain a change of status for land they own along Snow's Cut - the Intracoastal Waterway - in Carolina Beach.
The land runs from Snow's Cut Bridge east between Snow's Cut and homes located on Spencer Farlow Drive down to the North Carolina Wildlife Boat Ramp on Annie Drive.
The land would relocate the Snow's Cut Walking and Bike Path and bring the installation of a fenced topped with barbed wire running behind residential homes.
Carolina Beach Town Manager Michael Cramer updated the Town Council on the status of the project earlier this week.
He explained, "During the past two council meetings we have had several citizens ask about the Army Corp of Engineer's (ACOE) development plans for their property on Snow's Cut. Ed Parvin and I met with representatives from the Corp's Real Estate Division and the following is a brief description of our finding."
Cramer explained, "Currently, the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) maintains a repair yard and survey offices located on Eagle Island adjacent to the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge. Due to flooding, maintenance issues, and future design modifications associated with the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, the Eagle Island ACOE location is expected to be abandoned in the next 5 – 20 years, depending on their budgets."
The Corp of Engineers already utilizes a portion of the property to support dredging operations. That area is contained within a fence with barbed wire on top and a gate. There is a dock for dredge vessels. The entrance to that area is located on Annie Drive just before the North Carolina Wildlife Boat Access Ramp.
Cramer explained the Snow’s Cut property was identified as the top candidate for relocating the Corp of Engineer's operations.
He explained the advantages for the location are:
1. The ACOE already owns the land and Snow’s Cut in fee simple ownership.
2. The existing docking could be expanded to accommodate dredge equipment since the channel is located toward the north side of Snow’s Cut.
3. The location is immediately adjacent to Carolina Beach Inlet and is also significantly closer to the Atlantic Ocean via the Cape Fear River verses the current Eagle Island location.
He explained some disadvantages include:
1. Access by land requires crossing a bridge that may become inaccessible during an incident.
2. The land is immediately adjacent to a residential area.
3. The land is eroding and odd shaped which makes stabilization, access and on-site design challenging.
4. The land must be reclassified to an Operational status to move forward, which also entails completing an Environmental Assessment.  This does provide an advantage for adjacent residents as they will have opportunities for public comment.
Cramer explained, "The property is zoned R-1 which allows for single and two family development.  The proposed use could best be described as light industrial. Local zoning regulations do not apply on Federal property/projects; however the ACOE does have criteria for how their properties are developed."
Cramer said specific criteria that were explained to Carolina Beach staff members include:
1. A chain link fence with barbed wire at the top is required on all operational sites. This would be identical to the fencing the Town just installed at the Town's former fleet maintenance site in the MOTSU buffer zone on Dow Road.
2. The chain link fence must be 12’ off of the property line.  The 12’ has to be free of vegetation that could create security issues (i.e. someone climbing a tree adjacent to the fence to help them get safely onto the property).  Likewise, no vegetation will be planted near the fence on the interior of the property.
3. ACOE would allow Carolina Beach to relocate the Snow’s Cut Train in this 12’ buffer area.
4. There is a 25’ buffer from the fence to the first structure or building. The site plan has not been developed but typically as a result of this requirement, many federal facilities utilize the 25’ to accommodate vehicular access.
Cramer explained, "The proposed fence would go from the existing fence along the perimeter of the facility to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) Right of Way for the Snow's Cut Bridge, then across to the water’s edge.  The Corp has limited development interest in the property at the western terminus of the Snow’s Cut Trail.  They may be interested in placing a truck entrance from Old Dow Road through the property, under the Snow's Cut Bridge, and into the new facility.  There appears to be support from ACOE staff for improvements in this area which could include bathrooms, parking, or a trail extension into the state park."
He explained, "The first step in the planning process for this project is for the ACOE to conduct an Environmental Assessment on the impacts of changing the property designation to Operational and adding the fence.  The Corp plans to start this process in August and complete the process within eight weeks. During that time they will post online and send letters to adjacent property owners inviting them to register comments online during a 30 day public comment period. Comments would likely be addressed by internal staff.  They have offered to conduct an educational session to explain their plans to the public if requested. Staff recommends that anyone interested in commenting on the process or the proposed plans should send letters or emails to Senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagen, or to Representative Mike McIntyre."
The Snow's Cut walking and bike trail was installed some years ago by the Town of Carolina Beach and runs from the end of Bridge Barrier Road east through the wooded area between homes on Spencer Farlow Drive and the Snow's Cut waterway.
The trail ends at the Wildlife Boat Ramp on Annie Drive.
There are approximately a dozen residential properties that would see a new fence erected. Currently four properties are adjacent to the existing fence.
During the Council's May 27th, meeting Mayor Dan Wilcox explained, "I have to tell you its really upsetting. We spend all of our time trying to figure out how to provide natural areas and water access and all of that."
He said, "I don't know what we have to do, who is in charge of this, who we have to appeal to, but I would really like to get ahead of this and try to suggest that if they need a little more space they take a little more space but not block it off all the way to the bridge. I'm sure they're going to hear from the property owners."
He said the Town needs to research their rights and documentation as well as more specific plans from the Corp.
Wilcox said, "It wouldn't be the first time a government agency's mind was changed if there were substantial concern from the community and people spoke out on it. If this bothers us - it bothers me - if it bothers council collectively, we could get behind it, citizens could get behind it, and perhaps even if there is no process we can create one. Start a movement of sorts."
Wilcox said, "To put up the barb and chain link fence through there is depressing."
Councilman Gary Doetsch said, "It's something we need to be careful about because this is not the only place we partner with the Corp of Engineers."
The Town also works extensively with the Corp to provide beach nourishment and inlet dredging projects including securing federal funding.
For years the property owners on Spencer Farlow Drive with homes bordering the land have enjoyed access to the wooded area and the banks of Snow's Cut.
The land is owned by the Corp and those homeowners have no actual right to access the land.