May 7, 2013
UPDATE: Another dredge will try
clearing sand out of ferry channel
BY CATHERINE KOZAK
surveys of the traditional Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry route illustrate the
alarming rate of shoaling in Rollinson Channel, especially at the
location in the federal navigational channel where utility lines are
“Even from the last month’s survey, it’s showing more
deterioration,” said state Ferry Division Deputy Director Jed
Dixon. “That section has to be addressed one way or another.”
the meantime, Dixon said, ferries will continue to use an alternate
channel that takes about 20 minutes longer, but otherwise has no
issues. The half-hour summer schedule started today, with two
extra vessels added to help prevent backups.
‘Until it gets touched up some more,” he said about the shorter channel, “we really don’t have any other option.”
Army Corps pipeline dredge had left at the end of April after working
in the channel since late December. But even the April survey taken
after the dredging revealed the already extensive shoaling at one crook
in the channel.
The most recent survey by the Corps of
Engineers completed May 1 showed that an area by Buoy 11B and Buoy 12A
was not dredged to the authorized depth of 10 feet because of
sub-marine electrical cables, according to an e-mail from Corps
spokeswoman Ann Johnson.
“Our navigation experts are in the
process of determining solutions for this trouble spot,” she wrote,
“and are coordinating with Tideland Electric to better identify the
location and depths of the power lines to Ocracoke.”
Corps’ dredge Murden is expected to arrive at Hatteras Inlet on about
May 18 to clear the shoaled area at the “pinch point,” she said.
dredge will work for about six days. The project will cost about
$115,000 and will be covered by Hurricane Sandy Relief Funds.
in March, the survey maps -- with red translating to roughly 4- to
6-feet deep, yellow 6- to 8-feet; green 8- to 12-feet; and blue 12- to
15-feet or deeper – showed more red at the troublesome spot.
May, the red sections on both sides of the spot in the channel looked
as if they were nearly meeting, making it dangerously narrow.
and ferry captains have noticed progressive shoaling in Hatteras Inlet
since Hurricane Irene in 2011. The problem got even worse after
Hurricane Sandy in October, which was followed by several northeasters.
“It’s a very volatile area,” Dixon said. “The channel is a lot different around the inlet than it was three years ago.”
who worked as a ferry captain in Hatteras Inlet for seven years, said
no one has been able to pinpoint the reason for the vast amount of sand
moving into the inlet. But he guesses it might be related to the
rapidly eroding tip of Hatteras Island, which appears to have lost
about 150 yards in recent years.
“It looks to me like that
sand from that erosion is getting into that channel,” he said. “We’re
experiencing shoaling in the channel where we never had it before.”
Click here to see the latest hydrographic images of depths in the Hatteras Inlet ferry channel.