September 18, 2012

Pipeline dredge working in Ocracoke Inlet
and headed to Hatteras Inlet soon

By CONNIE LEINBACH



The pipeline dredge Richmond arrived in Ocracoke’s Silver Lake Harbor early in September and began maintenance dredging Sept. 7 of the Big Foot Slough off Ocracoke, according to Hank Heusinkfeld of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who contracts dredging operations in North Carolina.

Hatteras Inlet has been plagued with heavy shoaling (or sand buildup) since Hurricane Irene carved a swath through the Outer Banks in late August of last year.   Ocracoke Inlet fared better than Hatteras but still is in need of periodic dredging.

Heusinkfeld said the Ocracoke dredging will take 25 days, weather permitting.  After that, the dredge will make its way to the Rollinson Channel in Hatteras Inlet which is the channel the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferries use.

Darlene Stryon, the Hyde County commissioner from Ocracoke, wondered about why the dredge was in Ocracoke first and not Hatteras.

“They need it there first,” she said about the Hatteras channel. “I know the ferry has bumped bottom a couple of times (recently) and they didn’t run on one evening because of (the shoaling).”

Heusinkveld said that it was just how it was scheduled -- first to Ocracoke, then to Hatteras.

Jed Dixon, deputy director for the North Carolina Department of Transportation Ferry Division, said the window of opportunity for dredging opened Sept. 1 after environmental concerns were addressed.

While it is here, the dredge will operate round-the-clock vacuuming sand off the sound floor and depositing it on the “spoil” islands near both inlets.

Both of the critical channels that the ferries travel are under federal jurisdiction, he said, and the dredge operation was being funded with $1.9 million in contributions from state and federal agencies.

“It’s been a lot of hard work to make this happen,” he said. “We’re glad to finally have it come to a head for this long-needed dredging.”

Although the sidecaster dredge Merritt has been to Hatteras Inlet a few times in the last few years, Dixon could not remember when the last time the pipeline dredge was here.

The Ocracoke slough (pronounced “slew”) extends west from the “Ditch,” or the Silver Lake harbor opening, out to a small island of sand built over the years by dredge spoil, and which is locally known as “Bird Island.”  Dredge material in Hatteras will be deposited on Cora June Island, also a dredge-spoil island.

The Richmond is owned by the Cotrell Contracting Corporation of Chesapeake, Va.


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