May 31, 2013
More dredging operations get
underway in Hatteras ferry channel
operations got under way this morning in the Hatteras ferry channel to
clear a 10-to-12-foot depth along the route between the ferry
facilities on Hatteras and Ocracoke, with the goal of clearing the way
for the ferry route to return to its original path in a few weeks.
in the channel has been a problem, especially since hurricanes Irene
and Sandy and the string of northeasters that followed Sandy last fall
An overnight storm on Jan. 18 made the route too
shallow for ferries to travel safely, and an alternate route between
Hatteras and Ocracoke has been in use since February.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is in charge of the dredging
operation, got environmental clearance on Thursday to begin work, and
the Dredge Merritt arrived in Hatteras Thursday evening.
the Merritt moves sand off to the side to clear a channel, the Murden
actually hauls sand away from the area and dumps it in another
The Wilmington District of the Army Corps
obtained an “Emergency Declaration” from its division headquarters to
use the Merritt to operate in the ferry channel to prepare it for
further dredging by the District’s newest vessel, the split-hull,
shallow-draft vessel, Murden.
With the emergency declaration,
the Wilmington District also coordinated with federal and state
environmental review agencies who, in recognition of the severe
shoaling issues, concurred with the emergency dredging operations.
Merrit will work 12-hour days to establish a pilot channel for the
Murden, which will remove material from the ferry channel and transport
it to the Ocracoke near-shore surf zone.
Erosion on the northern end of Ocracoke has been severe in this winter’s northeasters.
District has estimated the Merritt will need a minimum of four days to
effectively work the dredge cut. The Murden will arrive on June 4 and
will work in Hatteras until on or about June 9 when it reports to the
shipyard in Wilmington.
The authorized channel dimensions are
100-feet wide and 10-feet deep. The Merritt will work to a depth of
about 7-8-feet which will give access to the Murden to clear to project
Considerable dredging was done by the Army
Corps from December until April, but tests conducted in late April
showed that in three areas of the Hatteras Inlet, sand had already
started to shift back to the areas dredged several weeks earlier. That
made those areas unsafe for travel by ferry vessels, which need at
least 9 feet of water depth to operate.
To handle the
increased passenger traffic going into the summer, the Ferry Division
had moved the Hatteras-Ocracoke route to its summer schedule on May 7.
And an additional six trips in each direction were added on May 21.
For more information about the Hatteras ferry route, travelers can sign-up to receive messages on Twitter by going to www.twitter.com/ncdot_ferry or visit the N.C. 12 Facebook page.