Annapolis boaters may be blocked periodically from entering waters surrounding Greenbury Point if the Navy’s plan to create restricted “Danger Zones” near the peninsula is approved.
Now three Maryland lawmakers are encouraging area residents to weigh in before the military moves forward with plans that include closing Carr Creek to boaters up to six times a week. At the request of U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, as well as U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, the Army Corps of Engineers has reopened the public comment period and is accepting input until March 5.
The plan calls for restricting boating during some training exercises in three new zones around Greenbury Point. Zone One would include nearly all the navigable waters of Carr Creek north of Carr Point and the Carr Creek Marina, on the western shores of Greenbury Point. That zone would be activated four to six times a week when the Greenbury Point firing range is in use. Danger Zones Two and Three would radiate from the eastern side of the point into Whitehall Bay, and would be closed to boating traffic only once or twice a year.
Naval Support Activity Annapolis, the U.S. Navy unit charged with supporting base operations at the U.S. Naval Academy, requested that the new danger zones be created after a 2019 inspection concluded that “range operations pose a risk to boating in these waters” while the academy’s Greenbury Point firing range is in use. The plan became public in December.
“Safety is a primary concern at NSA Annapolis, and we want to ensure that we have a security buffer between activity in the water and military operations,” Capt. Homer Denius said in a statement. As the commanding officer at NSA Annapolis, Denius says the new danger zones are necessary to ensure safety while midshipmen and Navy personnel are using the firing range.
It took several years, however, for NSA Annapolis, the academy and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to work out exact schematics and logistics for the proposed zones. In December, the Corps posted a notice seeking public comment. Three Democratic members of Maryland’s congressional delegation heard concerns about the plan from their constituents.
“The waters around Annapolis are notoriously busy and are navigated by myriad commercial and recreational vessels each day. Any proposal that could restrict the use of these waters should have robust public input from all stakeholders who would be impacted by potential changes,” the lawmakers wrote in their Jan. 3 letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “We therefore believe that 30 days is not enough time for the public to be made aware of this proposal and to share their feedback.”
David Olson, a liaison for the Corps, said other local officials have also weighed in on the proposal, prompting the extension.
“We aim to impact as little boat traffic as possible and will be proactive in submitting a notice to mariners for upcoming operations,” Denius said.
To notify the public when Carr Creek or sections of White Hall Bay would be closing, NSA Annapolis says it would post a spotter to monitor for vessel traffic in the danger zone. If a vessel crosses into the area, range operations would cease. NSA Annapolis would also be responsible for posting notices on social media and providing courtesy notifications to the Annapolis Harbormaster and U.S. Coast Guard Station Annapolis.
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Establishing these danger zones will have no new effect on public access to Greenbury Point, NSA Annapolis said. The peninsula is periodically closed to the public during some munitions exercises.
Annapolis City Manager Michael Mallinoff said in a statement that the city would not take an official position on the proposed danger zones, although individual council members could weigh in on their own.
“We greatly appreciate the courtesy of notifying the city harbormaster when the firing range will be active and the Navy’s efforts to keep the boating public safe,” Mallinoff said.
Greenbury Point has become a flashpoint in Anne Arundel County since last spring when the Naval Academy Golf Association sent a proposal to the Navy to lease land there and build a second Naval Academy golf course.
The plan caused immediate consternation among environmental advocates, who raised concerns about such a project being built so close to the Chesapeake Bay.
Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman later proposed the county lease the land to preserve it as a conservation area in hopes of scuttling the golf course proposal. As of August, the Navy said it was pausing consideration of the competing plans.
Written comments on the proposed danger zones can be submitted to the district engineer April Sparkman by email at April.E.Sparkman@usace.army.mil or by regular mail at United States Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, Attn: Ms. April E. Sparkman, Regulatory Branch, CENAB-OPR-N, 2 Hopkins Plaza, Baltimore, Maryland 21201.