too much sand in the Hatteras ferry channel and not enough on the beach
in Rodanthe, and state and federal officials are working on both ends
of Hatteras Island to address the issues.
An emergency beach
nourishment project near the S-curves in northern Rodanthe is no longer
considered an emergency by the federal government, but after several
glitches, the project is nearly back on track.
And the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers and the state are still at work dredging Rollinson
Channel in Hatteras Inlet for use by the state Ferry Division and other
“All is good,” said Jamie Shern, environmental
policy advisor to the state Secretary of Transportation, about the
emergency nourishment project. “We had to jump through extra
hoops, which we jumped through.”
Shern said that the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service unexpectedly told the state Department of
Transportation about two months ago that a biological assessment, as
part of a formal consultation, would be required to permit the
1.9-mile project that will widen the beach north and south of
S-Curves at the south end of Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.
governor on March 19 had declared a state of emergency for the Rodanthe
area on Highway 12 because of severe damage from repeated ocean
overwash during coastal storms. That declaration was expected to
help speed up the permitting for NCDOT and other agencies. The
nourishment project is designed to last three years, until construction
of a long-term solution for Rodanthe by Dare County.
state of emergency had been declared after Hurricane Sandy for the
same area, which allowed the consultation part of the permitting
process to be waived. But then the federal agency decided that
the emergency has passed, triggering the need for the additional study.
Shern said that nearly all the permits were in place when
DOT had to put the brakes on to do the assessment, which studied the
potential impacts of the project on shorebirds and sea turtles
protected under the federal Endangered Species Act and the Migratory
Bird Treaty Act.
But DOT says the nourishment plans have not lost their urgency.
is still an emergency to the governor, to DOT and to the Corps, and we
are still moving aggressively forward with the project," said DOT
spokeswoman Nicole Meister.DOT staff worked all of January to complete
the report, he said, and submitted it to Fish and Wildlife for a
With the condition to work within a
limited range if a bird was seen nesting, Shern said, the assessment
received positive feedback. It is currently being reviewed by the
agency, which has 135 days to respond, but is expected to answer in
about 60 days.
When the project was first advertised, the DOT
had been told it needed to be completed by May 15 to limit impacts to
the protected species. But now that the biological assessment has been
done, addressing protocols to protect the species, the completion date
in the next bid package will be April 15, 2015.
was interested because it was too aggressive of a schedule,” Shern
said. The new timetable will be “much more palatable,” to contractors.
Shern said that DOT has requested extensions on the permits, and hopes to start the project by summer.
U.S Army Corps of Engineers received only a single bid on Jan. 10 for
what is known as the Highway 12 Protection Project, but the contract
could not be awarded because the contractor had added his own
conditions beyond what was advertised, Ann Johnson, chief of public
affairs for the Corps’ Wilmington District, said in an e-mail.
The bid was also “well above” the engineer’s estimated cost and the available funding, she said.
large amount of dredging work currently underway in the northeast in
response to Hurricane Sandy is likely the reason more and better bids
were not received,” she said.
“The team is working together to
re-advertise the project as soon as possible, and is looking at options
to obtain more and better bids.”
By law, bid prices
cannot be released, Johnson said. But DOT officials said last year that
$15 million to $20 million in emergency funds for the project had been
provided by the Federal Highway Administration.
Johnson said that 1.7 million cubic yards of sand will be dredged offshore from Wimble Shoals.
dredges have been deployed by the Corps and the state Ferry Division to
clear channels in Hatteras Inlet for ferry, charter boat, and private
Roger Bullock, chief of navigation for the Corps’
Wilmington district, said that a portion of the federal Rollinson
Channel had shoaled, and the dredge Currituck was working there from
Jan. 10 to Jan. 14. More dredging is scheduled, he said, for the
mid-to latter part of March, probably for about seven days.
have that channel open,” Bullock said. “It has some parts on it where
the channel is narrower than the authorized 100 feet, but most of it is
Bullock said that the fiscal year 2014 President’s budget includes $300,000 for maintenance dredging of Rollinson Channel.
Dixon, deputy director of the state Ferry Division, said that the
federal channel is passable for charter boat traffic, but not the
Since Dec. 20, ferry traffic has been diverted
to the emergency channel used for a few months last year. But that
channel is about 10 miles and takes about an hour, versus the regular –
now shoaled- channel that is 3.5 miles and takes about 40 minutes.
state pipeline dredge Carolina has been working for the last week in
Hatteras Inlet to make a new ferry channel, Dixon said.
new channel that we’re dredging now is a little further away from the
inlet,” he said, “and we’re hoping it’s going to be more stable.”
The Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry channel is about 70 percent federal and 30 percent state, Dixon said.
November, a statewide multi-year agreement was finalized between the
state and the Army Corps to provide $4 million a year for emergency
dredging, as long as matching funds are provided by a local sponsor
such as Dare County. Dixon said that so far, the local projects
have not needed to tap the fund.
Dixon said he hopes that the new channel will be ready for ferries within three weeks.
It’s the same channel that was run about six years ago, he said. Recent surveys revealed that it is opening up again.
“Typically, the way things happen at the inlet,” he said, “is when a door closes somewhere, it’ll open up somewhere else.”