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thedrifter
07-10-05, 06:49 AM
Courtesy of Mark aka The Fontman

Tanks need a boost
July 10,2005
CHRIS MAZZOLINI
DAILY NEWS STAFF

Shoaling from French Creek is making it difficult for the Marine Corps to transport tanks across the New River to the firing ranges, a problem Marine Corps officials hope to resolve with some dredging and other improvement work.

Retired Col. Jim Shleining, the director of range development, said the shoaling occurs at the mouth of the creek near Weil Point, where the tanks are placed on Ribbon bridges and floated across the river.

"The problem is as it floats over, you have to maneuver the ribbon bridges around the shoaling," he said. "A ribbon bridge with a tank on top is not the most maneuverable piece in the water."

The tanks cannot be transported by road because of the state Department of Transportation's weight restrictions.

To solve this problem, the base has applied with the Army Corps of Engineering for dredging and maintenance of some access channels in the New River near Weil Point and Rhodes Point, where the tanks disembark. The Marine Corps has also asked permission for some construction work of a concrete tank pad within the existing Weil Point access road, some shoreline stabilization work and the widening of the Weil Point ramp.

According to the notice, the dredging is scheduled between Oct. 1 and March 31 and would take about one month to complete. Periodic maintenance is also necessary, however, the report says that should be infrequent because "the existing channels to Weil Point and Rhodes Point have not required maintenance dredging since initial construction approximately (20) years ago."

The one caveat, according to the report, is that the proposed project may "adversely impact" essential fish habitat. Three habitat areas of particular concern have been identified in or near the project area, including aquatic beds and wetlands, state-designated areas important for managed species and the estuarine water column.

These habitats are managed by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Representatives from the NMFS were not available for comment last week on the specifics of the impact because of a conference.

Lt. Col. Gary Oles, the director of range control at Camp Lejeune, said they have been transporting tanks across the river for about five or six years. Before the Iraq war, Oles said, tanks were floated across the river about two times per year. Since the war began, they have been transporting tanks about once a quarter, although in smaller groups.

The tanks must cross the river in order to complete semiannual requalification on the ranges, a requirement before they can be deployed.

The project is open for written public comment until July 27. Brad Shaver, a regulator specialist with the Army Corps of Engineers, said nothing will happen before that date.

"We're just now getting started on the process," he said.

Written comments pertinent to the proposed work can be submitted to Brad Shaver, Post Office Box 1890, Wilmington, NC 28402. Shaver can also be contacted at (910)251-4611. The full public notice can be downloaded at www.saw.usace.army.mil/wetlands/Notices/2005/0500596.pdf


Contact staff writer Chris Mazzolini at cmazzolini@freedomenc.com or at 353-1171, Ext. 229.

Ellie