July 19, 2016
Dare board approves contract for permitting Hatteras dredging
By IRENE NOLAN
its meeting on Monday, July 18, the Dare County Board of Commissioners
unanimously approved a $55,524 contract with Coastal Planning &
Engineering of North Carolina (CPE-NC) to obtain permits for dredging
to maintain the Hatteras Inlet navigation channels.
The board selected the Wilmington company at its June 20 meeting to
assist the county in obtaining the needed permits for long-term
maintenance of the sand-clogged channels that allow vessels to transit
from the Hatteras docks into the ocean.
Under the contract, CPE-NC will provide engineering, environmental, and
geotechnical services to the county to produce an environmental
assessment, essential fish habitat assessment, and biological
assessment of the project, along with a Major CAMA permit application
and a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit application.
The permits would seek authorization from the Army Corps and the state
for maintenance of the "West Channel" -- also known as the Connecting
Channel -- with the Army Corps sidecast dredge Merritt or hopper
dredges Murden and Currituck. It would also seek a permit for
dredging on the Ocean Bar Channel if necessary to move from the West
Channel to an offshore spoil area for disposal of the dredged sand.
Dare County manager Bobby Outten said in an interview after the meeting
that it is expected to take six to nine months for the company to
produce the environmental documents and receive the permits. The
company would provide monthly updates to the county.
Since the Army Corps is not authorized to dredge in the Connecting
Channel or the inlet bar, the county's goal is for the state, which can
dredge in the area, to obtain the permits and then contract with the
Corps to do the work.
Outten said that the state's Division of Water Quality has requested a
memorandum of understanding from the Army Corps to allow the dredging
to happen, but has not received it yet.
Outten also said that money is not the problem. The county has
the money in its inlet maintenance fund for its share of the dredging
-- funds that will be matched by the sate -- but that it must wait for
the MOA and the permits.
Those cannot come soon enough for the commercial boat captains who must
use the inlet and for the businesses in Hatteras village that depend on
that boat traffic.
During last night's public comment session, three Hatteras villagers
spoke to the board from the Fessenden Center in Buxton.
"We still have a problem with Hatteras Inlet," said Steve "Creature"
Coulter, who is a member of the county's Oregon Inlet and Waterways
Coulter was referring to the North Carolina Department of
Transportation's Ferry Division's latest attempt to dredge the
Connecting Channel, which began on June 23 and ended on June 30.
"I went out of town one weekend and when I came back, the dredge was
gone," said charter boat captain Rom Whitaker. "We need help.
Whatever we can do on this end, let us know."
"One day we have a dredge that's completed one third of the task, and
the next day, it is gone," said boat captain Ernie Foster, also a
waterways commission member. "We are desperate."
Boat captains made the point at last week's commission meeting and
again at last night's public comment session that the channel is still
not safe to use at times, depending on the wind and the tide.
Coulter used two mid-calf height green boots to make his point to the commissioners.
"On a good day, every charter boat is going through this much water," he said, stacking one boot on top of the other.
Then he took one boot away.
"On a bad day, we're bumping bottom," he said.
"On a bad day, there's not even a foot," said Whitaker. "You get
everyone to go to the front of the boat and hope you get through."
"I urge you to fast track the memorandum of agreement with the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers," said Dan Oden whose family owns Oden's Dock
in Hatteras village.
Oden said he would welcome any of the commissioners to come down to the
village either in the morning when the boats go out or in the afternoon
when they come in to listen to the traffic on the marine radio as
captains try to transit the most shoaled areas. It's tough to
hear, Oden noted.
Captains also again mentioned last night that transient boats are not
coming to Hatteras village because they fear damaging their vessels in
The commissioners approved the contract with CPE-NC without discussion
or comment. Nor did any of the six commissioners present mention the
inlet issues during commissioner's business at the end of the meeting
when each of them can make comments on anything they want to.
Commissioner Allen Burrus of Hatteras village did not attend the
Commissioner Allen Burrus of Hatteras village did not attend the meeting because of a death in his family.