Residents Concerned About Grain Transport At Onancock Waterfront

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Image courtesy of Onancock Main Street.

By Carol Vaughn —

Onancock residents Kathy Boyd and Priscilla Hart voiced concern at Monday’s Onancock Town Council meeting about Chaney Enterprises’ plan to expand its operations at the Onancock wharf to include grain transport by barge.

Boyd said officials need to look at “loose B-W (business waterfront) zoning district” regulations.

“A grain transfer operation is a noisy, dirty, dusty business,” she said.

The operation could result in 10 to 15 barges a year, each holding 60 tractor-trailer loads of grain, at the wharf, she said.

“Can you imagine 18-wheelers, 60 a month, coming up and down Market Street?” Boyd said, asking officials to “convince Chaney this is not a good move for them.”

“The thought of 60 tractor trailers going by my house — it is something I never thought would happen,” Hart said.

Town Manager Matt Spuck said he spoke with someone from Chaney earlier Monday. The person said no deal had been inked, but they were talking about shipping around one barge per month out.

Spuck then called the Virginia Department of Transportation to find out about any regulations or limitations regarding truck traffic on that portion of the road. He noted standing water and asphalt conditions are a problem there.

Spuck also consulted the town attorney “to ask what our possible recourses can be.”
“We want to remain good neighbors with Chaney, but at the same time we need to protect our town,” Spuck said.

Spuck met Wednesday with Perdue AgriBusiness Grain about the Chaney operation, he said in an email to the Post.

According to Spuck’s account of information the business gave at that meeting, the grain operation will not be a 12-month operation, but will operate during two harvest periods per year, for soybeans and wheat, and on rare occasion for corn.

July and late fall are the two periods when grain will be barged out of Onancock.

“The grain will be trucked from a facility in Parksley, using grain hopper trucks, which are loaded from the top and unloaded from a hatch under the bottom.

“The hopper will feed a tube and conveyor and load in the top of a covered barge. The barge is slightly smaller than the gravel barge, but both may be on the North Branch at the same time.  Each tug company (Vulcan for Chaney and Wards for Perdue) will be able to maneuver to allow for both to be on the bulkhead simultaneously.

“The trucks will enter the Chaney facility through the gate the trucks currently use to enter and exit. They are trying to determine if the trucks will be able to exit at the east gate and turn right onto King and exit around Market St. If they can’t, they will need to be able to turn the truck inside the Chaney fence in order to exit through the same gate they entered.

“When a truck pulls onto the site, they will likely line up parallel to the creek and barge, have the conveyor attached to the bottom and transfer materials from the truck to the covered barge (theoretically this is a closed system and limits the dust). Each truck will take about 10 minutes to empty. The conveyor is an electric motor, so not as loud as much of the equipment currently used on the site,” according to the email.

The operations will be done in 12-hour days, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Staff at the site said it will take about three days to fully load a barge, according to Spuck’s email.

The company estimates three to four barges in July and seven to eight barges in November/December would use the site.

“The first barge is arriving late this week or early next week. They are removing wheat from the Parksley facility – so it is off the normal schedule,” Spuck said in the email.

Spuck said he will continue conversations with VDOT about public safety concerns with that part of King Street and will call the town attorney and review ordinances to see what control the town has over hours and days of operation.

He also is continuing conversation with Chaney about the company’s plans to shield the facility using plantings or other methods, as described when the company bought the operation from T&W Block.

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