VMRC action on sunken barge in Urbanna Creek is delayed
by Tom Chillemi
The Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) has rescheduled a December 10 public hearing to review evidence, hear testimony and decide whether the commission should take further legal action to compel the removal of a sunken barge in Urbanna Creek, reported John Bull, VMRC director of public relations, in a press release.
“The purported owner of the barge, Mr. Ray Watson, was served a legal notice on November 25 to appear before the commission at a December 10 hearing on the matter, but his attorney yesterday (December 5) requested a continuance until the February 25 (2014) regularly-scheduled commission meeting,” wrote Bull.
The attorney said scheduling conflicts will not enable him to attend and represent Watson at either the December 10 or January 28 commission meetings, wrote Bull.
VMRC Commissioner Jack Travelstead granted the continuance to ensure that Watson can be represented by his legal counsel, thus protecting Watson’s due process rights, when the commission decides whether to request the Office of Attorney General to pursue a legal enforcement action in Circuit Court to compel Watson to remove the barge at his own expense or face potential penalties of up to $10,000 for non-compliance, stated Bull’s press release.
Bull also stated that Commissioner Travelstead said a further delay in the resolution of this matter is “unfortunate but is necessary to accommodate a reasonable request by Mr. Watson that he be represented by legal counsel when the commission decides whether to take additional legal action against him.”
On October 21, 2013, Middlesex General District Court Judge Jeffrey W. Shaw ruled that Watson owned the barge and imposed the maximum fine of $500, plus $81 court costs, on Watson for failing to raise his sunken barge that has been on the bottom of Urbanna Creek since March 2012.
Although Judge Shaw found Watson guilty of a misdemeanor following a two-hour trial, he did not order the barge raised.