Tangier Island Awarded $2.3 Million Grant for Fuel Storage
06.20.2024 By Tank Terminals - NEWS

June 20, 2024 [National Fisherman]- Tangier Island, Va., sits in the middle of Chesapeake Bay with a population of about 375 people, most of them making their livings as commercial fishermen.

 

The wooden boatbuilders of Tangier often refer to the island as a “one-armed place” to build boats, as everything – wood, fasteners, and supplies – is hours away by water. Large keel logs are floated over from the Eastern or western shores of the Chesapeake Bay.

The challenges of island living do not just affect boatbuilders. Recently, the community almost lost the one fuel distribution station on the island, but the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has come to the rescue.

The DEQ awarded the incorporated Town of Tangier a $2.3 million grant that will provide funding to create safe storage of fuel and continued supply of fuel and fuel oil to the island.

The current fuel facility, along with the transportation and delivery of fuel to the island by way of a fuel barge towed by a tugboat, have been privately owned for years.

“The owner of the fuel plant was going to close it down,” says the Mayor of Tangier, James “Ooker” Eskridge.  “If the fuel plant closed down, that would have been catastrophic to our community. We would not have accessible fuel to run our boats and fuel oil to heat our homes.” The closest place to get fuel would be Crisfield, Md. on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, approximately 13 nautical miles away – one way.

“We are very grateful to DEQ because the community did not have the money to do all this,” says Eskridge. The town has already taken over the operation of the fuel station, hiring a secretary and two dock workers.

“The primary project involves protecting Tangier’s only petroleum storage facility, which is exposed to flooding and will benefit from additional environmental controls to prevent petroleum spills. Safe, continued operation of this storage facility is necessary to support the Island’s commercial fishing fleet,” according to a news release from DEQ.

A portion of the grant funds will be used to purchase the tank storage facilities from the existing owner, replace old tanks with new double-walled tanks, and old fuel lines with new ones. The grant funds can also be used to purchase equipment and spare parts for the town’s wastewater treatment plant and flood gates around the island to prevent recurrent flooding, and to purchase the fuel barge for delivering the fuel to the island. But the tugboat used to haul the barge does not fall under the purview of the grant.

“We are hoping that the current owner of the fuel barge and tugboat keep bringing us fuel,” says Mayor Eskridge. “We do not want to have to buy a tugboat, but we will do what we have to do.”

DEQ Director Mike Rolband says, “When we learned about the significant threats to this unique community from an unprotected fuel facility and recurrent flooding, DEQ was ready and eager to help. We are pleased that DEQ was able to provide funding and technical support that Tangier Island and its residents so critically need.”

 

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