"These people are desperate for help, else there might not be a Tangier Island anymore," Rigell said in a phone interview Friday.
On Monday, Rigell is scheduled to be on the island to discuss his rescue plan with Tangier's mayor and the
local contractor, Bay Bridge Enterprises. The Chesapeake-based company not only salvages barges, but also recycles unwanted ships from the James River Reserve Fleet, also known as the Ghost Fleet.
Rigell said he expects to move quickly, perhaps deploying the barges within the next month. The barges would be thoroughly cleaned before being placed.
But state regulators and scientists said such a project would have to undergo rigorous review and be approved by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard.
|This is an ariel photo of Tangier Island. Note the well defined hook on the southern end of the island. This photo was taken in the 1980's.|
Federal and state funds have been used to build a seawall near Tangier Island's airfield and sewage treatment plant. The Army Corps of Engineers also is studying the placement of a new jetty on the fast-eroding north end of the island, but those projects can take years to finish.
Tangier cannot wait that long, Rigell argued, noting that federal money is scarce these days.
"This doesn't cost anything," he said, "and we could get them some temporary relief by using the barges."
Also next week, Rigell intends to discuss another dicey issue on the Eastern Shore: beach parking at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.
Citing concerns from Chincoteague business and tourism interests, Rigell said he is worried that the government wants to do away with such waterside parking and instead shuttle visitors to the beach in trams and buses.
"Our parking areas are shrinking now," Halpin said. "There might not be land available in the future, so we're looking to preserve that" by negotiating for the campground sale.