Town Plans Deal with South Port to Protect Inner Harbor

South Port boatel will back to Coast Guard Station.

South Port boatel will back to Coast Guard Station.

Cape Charles Wave

January 21, 2013

Town of Cape Charles staff have devised a plan to work with South Port Investors to install floating wave attenuators to protect the inner portion of the Town Harbor.

The floating plastic devices (see video at end of story) would be purchased in lieu of construction of additional stone breakwaters.

Town Council is holding a special meeting 6 p.m. Thursday, January 24, to approve the deal.

South Port is constructing a boat repair facility with floating docks and a boatel next to the Coast Guard Station, along with work space across the street where the former sewage treatment plant was located.

According to a memo to Town Council by Assistant Town Manager Bob Panek, South Port has “significant concerns” about when and where the Town will construct additional breakwaters to protect the harbor.

The Harbor Redevelopment Plan calls for five offshore breakwaters, two of which have been built.

Building three more breakwaters is estimated to cost at least $2 million, of which the Town has received approval for a $500,000 grant from the Virginia Port Authority (VPA).

Panek wrote that “the Town’s priority is the next breakwater to the south to protect the floating docks from southwesterly seas.” South Port’s priority, on the other hand, “is the next breakwater to the north for protection of their assets from northwesterly seas.”

According to Panek, however, South Port believes that the inner harbor could be better protected by installing floating wave attenuators on both north and south sides of the harbor, instead of breakwaters.


Town staff working with South Port estimate the cost of the wave attenuators at $1 million.

Panek said in his memo that South Port is willing to pay $500,000 for a south side wave attenuator, and that the Town could request permission from VPA to use the $500,000 grant to install a north side attenuator.

The memo compares the $1 million cost for floating wave attenuators versus $800,000 for one breakwater. No information was provided on the estimated lifespan of a floating plastic attenuator versus a fixed stone breakwater.

Panek’s memo includes a diagram showing “reconfiguration of the Town floating docks.”

The memo further suggests creating 23 additional floating dock spaces on the north side of the Harbor in front of the Shanty restaurant, if another VPA grant can be obtained.

Town staff has an additional recommendation concerning South Port: the firm owes the town $5,366 in unpaid water and utility charges and wants the Town to waive the bill.

Since 2007, South Port has leased property from the Town formerly known as the Edgerton fish house. South Port demolished the building on the property in November 2007, but new construction was delayed until now, pending approval of various permits.

In the meantime, although no water was used, the Town continued to bill South Port each month.

According to Town Code, if a water connection once existed on a property, the owner is required to pay the minimum monthly charge even if a building no longer exists.

Town Manager Heather Arcos is recommending that Town Council “review and discuss, and if applicable, authorize the Town Manager to waive the charges.”

The town’s full information package for Thursday’s meeting may be read by clicking here.

A short video of a floating wave attenuator may be seen below.



6 Responses to “Town Plans Deal with South Port to Protect Inner Harbor”

  1. Deborah Bender on January 22nd, 2013 8:42 am

    So let me get this straight — we are going to help South Port with the wave attenuators and SOUTH PORT OWES THE TOWN OVER $5,000 in water bills and won’t pay? Are you kidding me? And now our town manager wants to waive the water bills? Give me a break!

    If anyone owns a home in this town, has the water SHUT OFF because they are going to be gone for an extended length of time, they still have to pay the minimum bill. Why should South Port get out of paying their water bill?

  2. Larry Stevens on January 22nd, 2013 8:57 am

    Oh man, now I’ve seen it all! I sincerely hope the floating wave attenuator never sees the light of day in or around Cape Charles. Not only would it be aesthetically unpleasing when installed, just think what it would look like 2-3 years later when it is covered with grime, oil, seaweed, etc. It would collect every imaginable thing that drifts across the Bay (the list is too long to mention). It would be an environmental nightmare. Yikes — a terrible idea!

  3. Rick Thomas Sr. on January 22nd, 2013 2:02 pm

    From what I’ve seen the problem in the town harbor is swells not waves. These wave attenuators may break down the surface waves but would just float on and over the swells, allowing them to continue into the harbor. We have a huge concrete plant on the harbor and we can’t find a way to put in a concrete form of breakwater?

  4. Elizabeth Davis on January 23rd, 2013 9:37 pm

    I realize that the information above doesn’t STATE that the example in the video is the wave attenuator that is being proposed by town staff but it is certainly implied. The example in the video is one type of attenuator. The device demonstrated in the video is not what the town is exploring for the Harbor — never has been. If you search for “wave attenuator” on the Internet you will see many different types. You will also learn that a wave attenuator can be a dock — much like “A” dock at the harbor — which by the way is an attenuator. Furthermore if you look at page 4 of the packet provided to Council (link above) you will see that what is being proposed is a wave attenuator as part of the dock system in keeping with what already exists. The fact that a “floating plastic attenuator” isn’t being explored is a valid reason why no information was provided in the staff’s report regarding the lifespan of said device. But at this point it has not even been determined that attenuators are the final decision.

  5. David Kabler on January 24th, 2013 1:24 pm

    I have had personal experience with these floating wave attenuators in the boat harbor of Cambridge, MD. The harbormaster warned me upon docking my schooner there that it won’t work, and that my boat would rock like mad when a tug pushing a barge up or down the river passes the town. He was absolutely right! One pass of a tug and I tossed my lines and left the marina to dock in the town’s old harbor.

  6. Roger L. Munz on January 27th, 2013 10:12 pm

    I believe the Town Fathers should tread very lightly in committing $500,000 to a somewhat questionable technology and project. This is one plan that should not be rushed into. IF this is so great at calming the seas, than let’s see a demonstration across a part of the town harbor for several months to truly evaluate its potential.