The last several years, the Cape Charles Harbor has been losing money, and the town has been using the General Fund to cover the shortfall. The financial status of the Harbor continues to trend downward as most boaters have exited the town harbor for Kings Creek at the Oyster Farm. According to harbor staff, the predominant complaint from both transient and seasonal floating dock slip holders is allegedly excessive wave action generated between the channel shoal and the floating docks.
The Harbor Focus Group has been considering alternate approaches to protecting the harbor to establish a calmer and safer marina, and the consensus is that the “most effective means of calming this area is to construct either a fixed wall or floating wave attenuator.”
The town’s Harbor Redevelopment Plan called for a series of five breakwaters to be placed outside the harbor for the protection against westerly swells. Three have already been built for a cost of $1.85 million. Aside from shoaling more sand, the breakwaters apparently are not performing at all. The harbor staff claims the swells coming into the harbor can be over 2 feet. Historically, wave action is the same or has become more forceful after spending $1.85 million on the current breakwater system. According to harbor staff, constructing a fourth breakwater will do little or nothing to alieve wave action in the harbor.
The proposed floating wave attenuator is estimated to cost $1.4 million. Town council approved a resolution to pursue a Boating Infrastructure Grant to help pay for the structure. The town’s match will be 25%–the best case scenario will be that the town will have pay close to $400,000, however, it is acknowledged that cost will more than likely be $620,000 to $784,000.
According the staff, the attenuator is actually a large, deep floating dock which will also increase the harbor capacity by adding 30 additional transient slips.
Presently, no evidence or model was produced that would guarantee how well the wave attenuator would perform. Staff did offer anecdotal evidence via a story regarding a marina in Florida that was completely wiped out from a hurricane, and the only thing left standing was the wave attenuator—essentially stating that they offer little protection from hurricane force winds and storm surge.
“If we get this wave attenuator, and calm things down, will the people that left the harbor come back?” Mayor Proto asked.
“I cannot guarantee that,” Harbormaster Charlie Farlow said.