Manteo gains control of Shallowbag Bay

By on July 17, 2019

The abandoned boats of 2017 prompted Manteo’s push to control Shallowbag Bay. (File photo/Neel Keller)

The North Carolina General Assembly unanimously passed legislation on July 11 that places Shallowbag Bay within the corporate limits of the Town of Manteo, giving the municipality the authority to adopt and enforce ordinances regulating the scenic waters that wrap around the downtown district on Roanoke Island.

For the Town of Manteo, that means it will now have jurisdiction over anchoring and mooring of vessels as well as the ability to better monitor and act on issues such as derelict boats, which plagued the municipality several years ago when two boats were left abandoned and unclaimed in nearby waters – one along the downtown’s waterfront and the other in nearby Doughs Creek.

The legislation, House Bill 429, was requested by town officials and introduced by N.C. House District 6 Rep. Bobby Hanig. It was part of a bill that also authorized Hyde County to regulate the navigable waters within Silver Lake on Ocracoke Island. For Manteo’s part, the bill identified the waters from the northern tip of Ballast Point extending northwest to the southern tip of Baum Point, along with Doughs and Scarboro creeks, as part of the town’s corporate limits.

Mayor Bobby Owens said that when the two abandoned boats became an unsightly part of the landscape back in 2017, some residents started a petition to have the boats removed.

“They found out it wasn’t that easy. You don’t just go get someone move a boat, and it was still hard because these were public waters,” the mayor noted.

Because the boats were unclaimed, and the state’s Wildlife Resources Commission and Marine Patrol monitored and patrolled the waters extending three miles from shore, town officials found themselves having to jump through a number of bureaucratic hoops to have the vessels removed.

Plus, Owens noted, “If a boat is adrift, it’s fairly easy to move. If it sinks, it’s the hardest thing to move.” It’s also rather costly, town officials discovered at the time.

The predicament prompted the town to seek the local bill. “With this legislation, we will be able to move a boat much easier, and keep the beauty as best we can,” the mayor asserted.

Town Manager James Ayers said that derelict and abandoned boats can not only cause damage to the environment, but also present hazards to boaters and other users of Shallowbag Bay. He noted that the regulatory hurdles in 2017 caused months of delays.

“But the new law will allow the Town to streamline the process by which people and the environment can be protected from such hazards,” he said.

With Shallowbag Bay now under the town’s jurisdiction, the municipality will also be able to adopt regulations addressing the types of activities permitted, speed zones, no-wake zones and the placement of navigational aids.

Town Manager Ayers said the development of regulations will include a robust community engagement effort.

“The next step is to listen to the community and seek feedback,” noted Ayers. Among the opportunities to provide public input will be the regularly scheduled meetings of the Manteo Board of Commissioners on September 4 and 18. The public is also being encouraged to send ideas and suggestions to a special email address at

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