May 14, 2012
UPDATE: Dredge working in Hatteras Inlet
channel; ferries are running again


The side-caster dredge Merritt arrived at Hatteras Friday evening and went to work on the shoaled up Rollinson Channel in Hatteras Inlet early Saturday morning.

By late afternoon, the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry, shut down for most of the week by the narrow and shallow channel, was running again. 

Today, ferries were back on the regular summer schedule, said Hal Scarborough, shift supervisor at the Hatteras ferry dock.

“The sand really has been dynamic in the inlet since Hurricane Irene,” Roger Bullock, chief of navigation for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wilmington District, said last week.”

The Corps dredged the inlet after last August’s hurricane and has dredged it as recently as March. 

However, as soon as the channel was cleared, it shoaled up again.

Last week, the N.C. Department of Transportation Ferry Division personnel ran ferries when they could at high tide, but gave up by Wednesday.

Bullock said that the Corps surveyed an alternate channel the week before last and again last Wednesday.

The Rollinson Channel, he said, seems to be trying to change its course and straighten itself out as it moves the water in and out of the inlet.  Between last week and Wednesday, he said, there was “considerable improvement” in the new area the Corps is eyeing for perhaps a safer and more stable channel.

It would remove the “dog leg” that now exists in the channel and takes it though an area with strong cross currents, which contribute to the continual shoaling.

Local boat captains had already staked out the deeper water and have been using the makeshift channel.

The Merritt is now working on the new channel and making good progress, said Allen Burrus of Hatteras, vice-chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners, who has been working with the Corps, Ferry Division, and other agencies to deal with the serious shoaling problems.

Ferries, Scarborough said, are having no problems and are moving vehicles at full capacity.

The progress on the channel is also good news for Dennis Robinson, president of the Hatteras Village Civic Association, which sponsors the Hatteras Village Offshore Open each May, the first event in the Governor’s Cup.

Shoaling in Rollinson Channel was a major concern for captains coming from other ports to fish the tournament.  Forty to 50 boats often participate, with many coming to Hatteras from elsewhere for the week, making the tournament important economically for the village.

This year’s tournament starts tomorrow with registration and fishing days on Wednesday through Saturday. Some boat captains and owners had already cancelled their reservations at Hatteras marinas.

Last week, tournament organizers took the unprecedented step of allowing a “one-time” exception to the rule that requires all boats to fish out of Hatteras Inlet. This year boats can fish out of Hatteras, Ocracoke, Oregon Inlet, and Morehead City.

However, Robinson is very encouraged by early reports that the Merritt is making good progress on making the channel deeper. He is hopeful that some of those boats will still come.

“I’ve ordered more food and T-shirts,” he said yesterday.

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