Lockwood Inlet Association warns boaters of broken pipe, other dangers in waterway

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — After a year of lockdown, many anticipate a busier than ever beach season. For the Lockwood Inlet Association, this raises some concerns.

Members of the association, Vice President Ryan Williams and President Cane Faircloth, are cautioning boaters who plan to use the inlet for work or for play as spring break approaches and warm weather lingers.

“The biggest factors when it comes to navigating the inlet, definitely the tide and the weather,” Williams said.

“If the swells up and you’ve got a hard southwest wind, onshore wind, it’s going to be really rough in there and very dangerous in there right now,” Faircloth added.

The two noted several ongoing issues like an unmarked Civil War wreck that could be hazardous to boats passing by but identified two important issues that need immediate attention as the waterway begins to see more traffic.

Most recently an exposed, broken pipe has surfaced in the middle of the inlet. Who is responsible for the pipe remains a mystery, but the algae growth on the pipe suggests it has been in the water for quite some time.

Additionally, why it’s just now surfacing remains unanswered as well. Some speculated recent dredging events broke the pipe, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the only impact dredging would cause is lifting sand off the pipe, relieving pressure, and allowing it to rise to the surface.

Once notified about the pipe, the U.S. Coast Guard marked it with a buoy, but it remains a hazard for boats traveling at a high rate of speed or with low visibility at night or early in the morning.

“It’s something that we can fix and we can save a life doing it,” Faircloth said. “Basically, we need the Corps of Engineers, Brunswick County, and the U.S. Coast Guard to grab the bull by the horns, and let’s remove this.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says there’s not much they can do until an owner of the pipe is identified. When that happens, they can partner with the Coast Guard and write a letter to the owner, notifying them that it needs to be removed.

The second pressing issue is the absence of navigational buoys directing boaters. This became a problem after Hurricane Isaias scattered them and they were never replaced by the Coast Guard.

“If our inlet is not quite 100%, the coast guard doesn’t want to put the navigational aids in there, but in all reality, the truth is that any navigational aids that we can have are going to greatly help you in the situation,” Williams said. “I mean, it’s like saying the road is not 100% so we’re going to take up the stoplights and stop signs.”

A spokesperson for the Coast Guard explained that following recent dredging events, the inlet is not wide or deep enough to allow buoys to be safely installed. However, they remain ready to assess surveys of any future dreading events.

In the meantime, Faircloth encourages anyone who will be using Lockwood Folly to go to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website to download the most recent survey of the inlet outlining GPS points to help navigate the waterway.

The Lockwood Inlet Association members call on the community to get involved, share their concerns with elected officials and make their voices heard, not only for the inlet but for all issues they are passionate about within the community.

“The inlet needs the public’s support long before it becomes a problem,” Williams said.

“It’s one of our state’s greatest resources, our shallow-draft inlets. It kinda makes who we are with our backwater, our estuaries, our river systems, our fish, our clams, our oysters, all that depends on the inlet,” Faircloth said.

WWAY has reached out to Brunswick County for comment on the concerns and a spokesperson confirms they are working to get more information.

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