Marines Try to Expand Pamlico Off-limit Areas

Proposed expansions of off-limits-to-anglers bombing ranges in Pamlico Sound could create fishing and navigation hardships.

The U.S. Navy apparently is hoping to expand its off-limits-to-anglers bombing ranges at Pamlico Sound.

Several eastern N.C. outdoors guides and anglers are upset at the proposed expansion, which will put more public fishing areas off limits.

Owen Lupton, a well-known angler and inventor of a famous red drum rig, said the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point has been conducting a survey with the aim of expanding the BT-9 and BT-11 bombing ranges at Pamlico Sound.

Anglers who have fished at the mouth of Pamlico Sound often note jet fighters streaking across the sky and firing at a derelict ship at the center of the BT-9 off-limits area.

BT-9 includes what was Brant Island and once comprised over 25 acres of safe harbor in Pamlico Sound until it was destroyed by bombing about 1960, Lupton said.

“This expansion continues the trend  by the military to gobble up as much (land and water) of the N.C. coastal plain as they can,” said Joe Albea, a Greenville outdoor television show producer who helped fight the Navy’s attempt to place an OLF near Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. “They are doing this under an EA (environmental assessment) which will move the process quicker than an EIS environmental impact study) and with less public input.

“All of this started in 2000 with the OLF (outlying landing field) and MOA  (military operational area) expansion,  which were stopped.

“This bombing range expansion needs to be stopped as well. The military currently owns thousands of acres of quality fishing and hunting areas that are closed to public access.”

Currently the target area is lined by beacons making a circle covering about 6-nautical miles in diameter, including some of the sound’s best fishing grounds, Lupton said.

“Not only is it a great producer of shrimp, crabs, oysters, and finfish for commercial fishermen, but it has some of the best saltwater recreational fishing anywhere,” he said. “Not only have all of us been legally shut out of that 6 mile circle, but boats have received citations for just passing through even a small portion of the range to prevent having to run in rougher waters.”

The Cherry Point Marines apparently want to extend the area to the eastern portion of the circle to the end of Brant Island Shoals, which would take even more prime fishing territory from commercial and recreational anglers and effectively prevent all vessels from crossing Brant Island Shoal through the Brant Island Slough, forcing them to go all the way around the end of Brant Island Shoal on a much more dangerous and rougher route for smaller boats.

The Marines also want to increase the BT-11 range at Piney Island (also called “Point of Marsh” or “Piney Marsh”). Fishermen currently are prohibited from fishing inside Rattan Bay, but the line actually currently extends to Cedar Bay at the mouth of Turnagain Bay and to Peter’s Cove at the Raccoon Island side of Point of Marsh and almost to Newstump Point at the Cedar Island Bay side.

That area features some of the best shoreline fishing anywhere in North Carolina.

“Right now the closed circle comprises an area of just under 4 miles across, but the new proposal takes the line out to an additional 3/4 mile, all the way around the prohibited circle increasing the closed area to 5 1/2 miles across,” Lupton said.

He pointed out the extended off-limits region will make off limits almost all shoreline from Turnagain Bay to Point of Marsh and around to Henry Hill Harbor near Raccoon Island and then all the way to and including Newstump Point.

“It also extends well out into Neuse River, taking out many prime oystering, shrimping, and recreational fishing hotspots and makes them off limits too,” he said.

Anyone opposing this expansion of an off-limits bombing range at Pamlico Sound may write to:

Susan Admire
Naval Facilities Engineering Command
6506 Hampton Boulevard
Norfolk, VA 23508

or fax to (757) 322-4894.

Comments must be submitted by July 17.

About Craig Holt 1382 Articles
Craig Holt of Snow Camp has been an outdoor writer for almost 40 years, working for several newspapers, then serving as managing editor for North Carolina Sportsman and South Carolina Sportsman before becoming a full-time free-lancer in 2009.

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