Slick cam on Ocracoke NC's Silver Lake harbor. Photo: C. Leinbach
Slick cam on Ocracoke’s Silver Lake harbor. Photo: C. Leinbach

Update: The Hyde County Board of Commissioners Monday night (April 2) at their monthly meeting approved this interim harbor regulation ordinance.

By Connie Leinbach

Hyde County is poised to enact steps to control the boats in Ocracoke’s Silver Lake harbor, and the public will have a chance to weigh in at 6 p.m. Monday (April 2) in the Community Center during a hearing on a proposed interim regulation.

The Hyde County Board of Commissioners will hear comments on an interim measure that the Ocracoke Advisory Planning Board approved March 19 during a public meeting. At that meeting, the planning board approved the measure until a comprehensive ordinance can be drawn up and approved by the N.C. General Assembly.

The measure is modeled after N.C. General Statute 153A-132 that deals with abandoned motor vehicles and vessels.  In that statute “Motor vehicle” includes any machine designed or intended to travel over land or water by self-propulsion or while attached to self-propelled vehicle.  A “vessel” means “every description of watercraft or structure, other than a seaplane on the water, used or capable of being used as a means of transportation or habitation on the water.”

The statute also states, “A county may by ordinance prohibit the abandonment of vessels in navigable waters within the county’s ordinance-making jurisdiction.”

Ocracoke’s version authorizes the county to declare boats “abandoned” and to remove them if they are “moored, anchored or otherwise located for more than 30 consecutive days in any 180-day period without the permission of the dock owner.”

If the county commissioners approve it, the ordinance will immediately be effective, and the county will have enforcement authority.

This new ordinance, for now, principally deals with abandoned vessels in the harbor, something that became a larger problem last season.

The county is developing a more comprehensive ordinance modeled after the one in Brunswick County.

“For the time being, this is as good as we can do until we get a larger ordinance,” said Stevie Wilson, chair of the planning board, during the March 16 meeting. “This will help us avoid the problem of people just leaving their boats. You can’t just leave your stuff here.”

Tom Pahl, Ocracoke’s county commissioner, noted that this ordinance will prevent people from purchasing an inexpensive boat, living on it in the harbor for the season, then walking away.

In February, the county removed three boats that had become unmoored last October.

Two were deemed abandoned and were crushed, all to the county’s expense, and the third was removed by the National Park Service since it had been tied up at one of their slips.  

This interim ordinance requires the owners to pay all fees of removal and disposition.

“We can put liens on them and garnish their wages,” Bill Rich, Hyde County manager, said about the boat owners.

Since then, a few other boats have become unmoored. 

Wilson said the regulation is not to target anybody or take away water access rights.

“But the harbor is the biggest resource we have,” he said. “This is something the community pretty much wants.”

Several islanders in attendance agreed.

“You’re certainly going in the right direction,” noted George Chamberlin, owner of Captain’s Landing.

Unattended boats in Silver Lake can sometimes come unmoored. Photo by P. Vankevich
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