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Drawbridge Operation Regulation; Chincoteague Channel, Chincoteague, VA

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Start Preamble


Coast Guard, DHS.


Final rule.


The Commander, Fifth Coast Guard District, is changing the regulations that govern the operation of the SR 175 drawbridge across the Chincoteague Channel, mile 3.5, at Chincoteague, Virginia. These regulations are necessary to facilitate public safety during the Annual Pony Swim. This rule will change the drawbridge operation schedule by allowing the Chincoteague Channel Bridge to remain in the closed position from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the last Wednesday and Thursday in July of every year.


This rule is effective June 16, 2004.


Comments and material received from the public, as well as documents indicated in this preamble as being available in the docket, are part of docket (CGD05-03-168) and are available for inspection or copying at Commander (obr), Fifth Coast Guard District, Federal Building, 4th Floor, 431 Crawford Street, Portsmouth, Virginia 23703-5004, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.

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Linda L. Bonenberger, Bridge Management Specialist, Fifth Coast Guard District, at (757) 398-6227.

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Regulatory History

On January 13, 2004, we published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) entitled “Drawbridge Operation Regulation; Chincoteague Channel, Chincoteague, VA” in the Federal Register (69 FR 1958). We received no comments on the proposed rule. No public hearing was requested nor held.

Background and Purpose

The Town of Chincoteague requested a change from the current operating regulation set out in 33 CFR 117.5 that requires the drawbridge to open promptly and fully for the passage of vessels when a request to open is given.

The purpose of this rule is to accommodate the Pony Swim across the Assateague Channel between Assateague Island and Chincoteague Island that takes place every year on the last Wednesday and Thursday in July. The herd is owned by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department and managed by the National Park Service. This annual event began in the 1700's, but in 1925 the Fire Department took over the event that is also referred to as the Chincoteague Volunteer Fireman's Carnival. The proceeds from the auctioning of the ponies provide a source of revenue for the fire company and it also serves to trim the herd's numbers. On Wednesdays, the ponies are led across the Assateague Channel from Assateague Island to Chincoteague where they are auctioned off. On Thursdays, the remaining ponies are led back across the channel to Assateague Island.

Due to the high volume of spectators that attend this yearly event, it is necessary to close the draw span on each of these days between the hours of 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. to reduce vehicular traffic congestion on this small island as a result of drawbridge openings.

This rule will require the Chincoteague Channel Bridge to remain Start Printed Page 27835in the closed position each year from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the last Wednesday and Thursday of July.

Since the Pony Swim is a well-known annual event, and is publicly advertised, vessel operators can arrange their transits to minimize any impact caused by the closure. Vessel operators with mast heights lower than 15 feet still can transit through the drawbridge across Chincoteague Channel during this event since only the bridge is closed and not the waterway. The Atlantic Ocean is the only alternate route for vessels with a mast height greater than 15 feet.

Discussion of Comments and Changes

The Coast Guard received no comments on the NPRM for the Chincoteague Channel Bridge and no changes are being made to this final rule.

Regulatory Evaluation

This rule is not a “significant regulatory action” under section 3(f) of Executive Order 12866, Regulatory Planning and Review, and does not require an assessment of potential costs and benefits under section 6(a)(3) of that Order. The Office of Management and Budget has not reviewed it under that Order. It is not “significant” under the regulatory policies and procedures of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

We expect the economic impact of this rule to be so minimal that a full Regulatory Evaluation under the regulatory policies and procedures of DHS is unnecessary.

This conclusion was based on the fact that this rule will have a very limited impact on maritime traffic transiting this area. Since the Chincoteague Channel will remain open to navigation during this event, mariners with mast height less than 15 feet may still transit through the bridge and vessels with mast heights greater than 15 feet can use the Atlantic Ocean to the west or transit after the closed hours.

Small Entities

Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601-612), we have considered whether this rule would have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The term “small entities” comprises small businesses, not-for-profit organizations that are independently owned and operated and are not dominant in their fields, and governmental jurisdictions with populations of less than 50,000.

The Coast Guard certifies under 5 U.S.C. 605(b) that this rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.

This rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities because even though the rule closes the Chincoteague Channel bridge to mariners, those with mast heights less than 15 feet will still be able to transit through the bridge during the closed hours and mariners whose mast heights are greater than 15 feet will be able to use the Atlantic Ocean as an alternate route or transit after the closed hours.

Assistance for Small Entities

Under section 213(a) of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1966 (Pub. L. 104-121), we offered to assist small entities in understanding the rule so that they can better evaluate its effects on them and participate in the rulemaking process. In our notice of proposed rulemaking, we provided a point of contact to small entities who could answer questions concerning proposed provisions or options for compliance.

Collection of Information

This rule calls for no new collection of information under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501-3520).


A rule has implications for federalism under Executive Order 13132, Federalism, if it has a substantial direct effect on State or local governments and would either preempt State law or impose a substantial direct cost of compliance on them. We have analyzed this rule under that Order and have determined that it does not have implications for federalism.

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

The Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (2 U.S.C. 1531-1538) requires Federal agencies to assess the effects of their discretionary regulatory actions. In particular, the Act addresses actions that may result in the expenditure by a State, local, or tribal government, in the aggregate, or by the private sector of $100,000,000 or more in any one year. Though this rule will not result in such expenditure, we do discuss the effects of this rule elsewhere in this preamble.

Taking of Private Property

This rule would not affect a taking of private property or otherwise have taking implications under Executive Order 12630, Governmental Actions and Interference with Constitutionally Protected Property Rights.

Civil Justice Reform

This rule meets applicable standards in section 3(a) and 3(b)(2) of Executive Order 12988, Civil Justice Reform, to minimize litigation, eliminate ambiguity, and reduce burden.

Protection of Children

We have analyzed this rule under Executive Order 13045, Protection of Children from Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks. This rule is not an economically significant rule and will not create an environmental risk to health or risk to safety that might disproportionately affect children.

Indian Tribal Governments

This rule does not have tribal implications under Executive Order 13175, Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments, because it would not have a substantial direct effect on one or more Indian tribes, on the relationship between the Federal Government and Indian tribes, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities between the Federal Government and Indian tribes.

Energy Effects

We have analyzed this rule under Executive Order 13211, Actions Concerning Regulations That Significantly Affect Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use. We have determined that it is not a “significant energy action” under that order because it is not a “significant regulatory action” under Executive Order 12866 and is not likely to have a significant adverse effect on the supply, distribution, or use of energy. It has not been designated by the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs as a significant energy action. Therefore, it does not require a Statement of Energy Effects under Executive Order 13211.


We have analyzed this rule under Commandant Instruction M16475.1D, which guides the Coast Guard in complying with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321-4370f), and have concluded that there are no factors in this case that would limit the use of a categorical exclusion under section 2.B.2 of the Instruction. Therefore, this rule is categorically excluded, under figure 2-1, paragraph (32) (e) of the Instruction, from further environmental documentation. Allowing the draw to remain closed for the brief times indicated on only the last Wednesday and Thursday of July of each year would have no individually or cumulatively significant impact on the environment.

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List of Subjects in 33 CFR Part 117

  • Bridges
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For the reasons discussed in the preamble, the Coast Guard amends 33 CFR part 117 as follows:

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1. The authority citation for part 117 continues to read as follows:

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Authority: 33 U.S.C. 499, Department of Homeland Security Delegation No. 0170.1; 33 CFR 1.05-1(g); section 117.255 also issued under the authority of Pub. L. 102-587, 106 Stat. 5039.

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2. § 117.1005 is added to read as follows:

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Chincoteague Channel

The draw of the SR 175 bridge, mile 3.5 at Chincoteague need not open for the passage of vessels from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday in July of every year.

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Dated: May 5, 2004.

Ben R. Thomason, III,

Captain, U.S. Coast Guard, Acting Commander, Fifth Coast Guard District.

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[FR Doc. 04-11150 Filed 5-14-04; 8:45 am]