The Ever Increasingly Clogged Waterways
A Maritime Challenge
by BRADLEY A. HUEBNER
BETWEEN 2010 and July 2018, North Carolina’s
population rose nearly 10 percent to just under
10.4 million. Anyone driving in New Hanover
County during rush hour, or on College Road any
time of the day, can see the effects. We have more
people and cars, but the same roads.
Clogged streets and highways are not the only examples of
overcrowding in the southeastern corner of the state. We also have
more boats, but the same shoreline and waterways. Out on the
water, this can translate to congestion, pollution, and property
These issues are not restricted to North Carolina, or even the
East Coast. Anchoring out — dropping an anchor for free instead of
paying a fee to dock at a marina — as well as short-term overnight
boat rentals: the rise of floating Airbnbs, plus abandoned and der-elict
boats are all topics of debate and discussion in coastal towns
in America and around the world.
Wrightsville Beach’s George Clark is a 91-year-old retired lawyer
who practiced admiralty and maritime law from 1957 to 1998
in Wilmington. Like many, summers are special to him, but this
orderly ex-Navy man has seen a few blights on his placid postcard
“Fifty feet from the end of my pier, boats that are anchored up go
wild and the floating pier
goes wild when pass-ing
boats go by fast,” he
says of the frequent boat
wakes. “In the early days,
boats would go slow.
People don’t care a thing
about my water.”
Plenty care enough
to drop anchor in that
“It’s a very high rec-reational
says Bryan Eure, fisheries
officer with the North
Carolina Marine Patrol.
“Definitely not less traf-fic
by any means.
You have the snowbirds that come through up and down the
(Intracoastal) Waterway. It’s hard to believe; it gets a little
busier every year. I think we have one of the smaller bod-ies
of water inside the waterway and behind the beaches …
New Hanover County is one of the highest counties in boat
Locals like Clark have a close-up look at the increasing num-ber
of boats congesting public waters. They see bigger vessels
anchored in the channel, too. They notice docked and anchored
boats advertising overnight stays.
Clark wants no part of watching his paradise overrun.
“I would say we have over 1,000 boats a year for overnight, for a
week, for a month,” Clark estimates. “I feel confident a certain num-ber
of them are polluting the water.”
Boats that are moored for 30 days will, at some point, require
waste to be dumped. If the boats don’t go to marinas or well out to
sea to take care of that — at least three miles from the coast — the
lawyer and pragmatist in Clark can hypothesize that the waste is
being dumped into the channel. That is why he warns young moth-ers
and children against swimming in these waters.
“We’ve taken some samples and some other agencies have, but
it’s mostly about stormwaters instead of whether people are dump-ing,”
Wrightsville Beach Town Manager Tim Owens says.
The sun sets over
out in Banks Channel,
WBM october 2019