Virginia CZM Program: 2011 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:VA CZM logo

56 

Grantee:

Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission 

Project Title:

Aberdeen Creek Harbor Master Plan 

Project Description as Proposed:

Within the Middle Peninsula, and in most coastal communities nationwide, working waterfront industries have adapted and shifted as coastal land use and waterfront property ownership has been altered over time. Historically, as epicenters of economic development, coastal communities were the location of strong fisheries, shipbuilding industries, as well as public access areas for recreational and commercial uses. However, as more and more people move toward the coast, the coastal dynamics combined with changing demographics has ultimately threatened traditional and culturally significant working waterfront industries.

Of the Middle Peninsula localities, Gloucester County is currently working to balance their maritime history and culture, along with the needs of local watermen as key waterfront properties and infrastructure change ownership, change land uses, and/or are lost.  Of note is the recent adoption by the Gloucester Board of Supervisors to address working waterfront management issues along the Perrin River.  A partnership between Middle Peninsula Chesapeake Bay Public Access Authority, Virginia Institute of Marine Science Marine Advisory Services and the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission resulted in the development of the Perrin River Commercial Seafood Harbor Overlay District report.   This project proposed to focus on the next working waterfront area in need by developing an Aberdeen Creek Commercial Seafood Master Plan focused on maintaining services and working waterfront industries within Aberdeen Creek. In particular, Aberdeen Creek is second behind Perrin River as one of two major commercial seafood hubs in Gloucester County.  Aberdeen, which has historically had ample infrastructure and access to support local watermen, their commercial seafood businesses and their water-base heritage, is losing access. Within recent years, Aberdeen Creek has experienced the closure of a Gloucester Seafood Inc which was a seafood processing plant that processed local watermen catches, as well as provided fueling and mooring facilities for their boats. Since this business has closed, Aberdeen creek has experienced significant shoaling and as such, dredging has become a priority issue.   

To develop this plan, MPPDC staff will take the lead and conduct a site analysis that will include an inventory of creek activities (ie. Public and private), the number of watermen that utilize this creek, as well as the creek navigation conditions. In addition to providing a creek-wide snapshot of its users, MPPDC staff will also research public and private infrastructure and property ownership to better understand options to improve or expand working waterfront industry services within the Creek. The plan will rely on community participation to identify and discuss infrastructure needs and potential improvements for Aberdeen Creek users.  Technical staff will develop cost opinions including discussion of capital improvement needs, and capacity analysis for private and public facilities.

As our coastal communities change, it is essential that management plans are developed to address the infrastructure needs of watermen, now and in the future. Within such a plan, it is likely that watermen and other working waterfront industries will no longer have the access to the water or the proper infrastructure to continue business.  

Funding:

$6,517 

Project Contact:

Lewie Lawrence, 804.758.2311; llawrence@mppdc.com 

Project Status:

8/1/2013 - 3/31/2014; Project Completed 

Final Product Received:

Aberdeen Creek Harbor Master Plan Final Report (PDF) 

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

Two local studies, the York River Use Conflict Study, in 2008 (NOAA Contract Number NA07NOS4190178 TASK 44), and The Perrin River Commercial Seafood Harbor Master Plan, in 2013 (Fisheries Resource Grants Program, http://www.vims.edu/research/units/centerspartners/map/frg/index.php), identified the need to manage various waterfront use issues and to protect the working waterfront in Gloucester County, Virginia.  The studies provided recommendations that were unique to the location and character of working waterfront businesses, as well as general recommendations that can be applied consistently throughout the industry.  (Both studies, and the Aberdeen Creek Harbor Master Plan, can be found on the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission website http://www.mppdc.com/ under “Reports”). 

As a result of these studies, the Aberdeen Creek Harbor Master Plan project was identified.  It was designed to assess the needs of the commercial seafood industry, identify the current harbor management, identify needed infrastructure improvements, and clarify the current zoning for Aberdeen Creek in Gloucester County, Virginia.  To understand the current uses, the number of users, the location of access points, the historical uses, and the historical and current zoning, zoning and land records were researched and interviews with local watermen and Gloucester County planners were conducted.  The research found that, while Aberdeen Creek has been used by the commercial seafood industry for over 70 years, the majority of the waterfront property consists of private homes, and the current commercial infrastructure on the creek consists of one privately owned former commercial seafood property and one public landing, both in poor repair.  Further, shoaling of the creek is becoming a major problem for commercial boats. 

The private properties on Aberdeen Creek are zoned Single Family 1 (SF1), which currently allows no working waterfront uses. 

The public landing public records show that the landing site, consisting of .50 acres of land and two small piers, was, in 1947, jointly deeded to the Board of Supervisors Gloucester County, Virginia, and the Department of Highways of the State of Virginia (currently the Virginia Department of Transportation - VDOT), and the Commonwealth of Virginia.  The deed does not indicate ongoing maintenance responsibility. However, VDOT has primarily provided maintenance oversight.

Gloucester Seafood, Inc., once a thriving seafood processing business with legal nonconforming status, did not renew its business license after 2010.  When Gloucester Seafood, Inc. became inactive for more than two years, the legal nonconforming status of the property ceased and the underlying SF1 zoning remained in place.

The Aberdeen Creek Harbor Master Plan provides three recommendations to the Gloucester County, Va. Board of Supervisors intended to preserve the working waterfront of the creek for future generations:
A: Amend the zoning ordinance to create a commercial waterfront district which allows certain working waterfront uses by right,
B: For the public landing, formally negotiate single ownership status and decouple joint ownership with VDOT and the Commonwealth,
C: Have Gloucester County and/or the Middle Peninsula Chesapeake Bay Public Access Authority collaborate and coordinate with other stakeholders to develop and implement a plan to maintain the channel on Aberdeen Creek. 

Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or email: Laura.McKay@deq.virginia.gov

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy to Virginia.Witmer@deq.virginia.gov 

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000


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