Dare County Waterways Commission -- formerly known as the Oregon Inlet
and Waterways Commission -- got a look at Dare County's dredging plan
to provide access through Hatteras Inlet at its monthly meeting in
Buxton on Monday evening, Aug. 16.
Waterways Commission's immediate goal is to keep the Connecting Channel
west of the Inlet Gorge -- or the long route -- that maritime traffic
has been using open, and the long-term goal is to reopen the shorter
route east of the gorge, which is a much more complicated project,
plan that was introduced at Tuesday’s meeting focused on the immediate
issue of providing access through the inlet on the western side of the
the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s meeting, there were also several
Waterways Commission issues that were addressed by the Dare County
Board of Commissioners at its meeting on Monday evening, Aug. 15.
issue was the name of the committee itself, as there were two groups
that were set up to advise the commissioners on inlet issues that
included "Oregon Inlet" in the title. One was the Oregon Inlet Task
Force, and the other was the Oregon Inlet and Waterways Commission. As
a result, it was decided by the Board of Commissions that the name
should be changed to the Dare County Waterways Commission.
other issue related to Waterways Commission members and attendance at
the monthly meetings. The commission did not have a quorum for either
the June or July meeting, and one of the new members who was appointed
in June, Holly White, never served on the commission because she no
longer lives in Dare County. In addition, another long-term member,
Arvin Midgett, had recently resigned for health reasons.
at the Monday night meeting, the Board of Commissioners appointed two
new members to the commission -- Dan Oden of Oden's Dock marina, and
Ronald Lowe, a retired dentist, boat owner, and member of the Hatteras
members with the exception of Lowe were present at the Tuesday's
Waterways Commission meeting, as well as a number of Dare County
commissioners. Chairman Robert Woodard, Vice Chairman Wally
Overman, and Commissioner Warren Judge, were all present, as well as
the County Manager Bobby Outten, and Commissioner Allen Burrus, who
also serves on the Waterways panel.
meeting was also attended by representatives of the U.S. Coast Guard
and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Army Corps
representatives included the captains of two dredges that operate in
Hatteras and Oregon inlets -- Bob Mason of the Merritt and Martin
Willis of the Murden.
meeting started with a review of the new surveys for Oregon Inlet and
Hatteras Inlet which were completed within the past week. The Oregon
Inlet surveys were performed on Aug. 11 and 12, and dredging priority
areas were pointed out on the survey, as well as the fact that there
was no significant difference to the Oregon Inlet Bar from previous
Hatteras Inlet survey was performed on Aug. 8, and the Corps of
Engineers chief of navigation Roger Bullock outlined the “bad spot” or
dogleg where the long channel now used by both the ferries and local
boat captains makes a turn and where the Merritt has been dredging.
dynamic spot has caused issues for dredging headway, as Bullock
explained. The sidecast dredge takes mud off the bottom and throws it
75 feet off to the side, but eventually the material comes running back
to the vessel, causing the dredge to run over it again. The team can
also combat the issue by digging deeper, but in either case, it takes a
little longer to get the work done.
takes twice as long, but it’s that or nothing,” said Bullock. “There
are a couple ways to deal with it but that’s a tough place to dredge.”
committee members and meeting attendees asked about re-instating a
portion of the Rollinson Channel short route, but, according to a
recent survey of the area, the part of the channel that boat captains
would like to see dredged is too shallow to get a dredge into.
Bullock also said that there is no guarantee that at this time the short route could be a viable option.
knowing what it will do, it’s not safe to [proceed],” said Bullock.
“You need to take into account that the vessel is 165 feet long
and is backing in and out of the channel… it takes forever to make
headway on prospecting work like that.”
also noted that Hatteras Inlet only has ½ foot of tide, versus Oregon
Inlet which has 2 ½ feet of tide. As a result, the dredging crew does
not have the ability to target a rough spot during a high tide like
they do at Oregon Inlet.
“We kept getting beat back – Mother Nature is working harder than us,” said Bullock.
The surveys on the Rollinson Channel are conducted every two months, unless there is significant change.
was also brought up at the meeting that the North Carolina Wildlife
Resources Commission had hosted a meeting in the past few weeks to
discuss re-establishing an island in the inlet like the dredge island
that was there for many years and may have help protect the channel.
But it was also noted that the project would require regular
maintenance, as well as regular funding
already know that if you put an island up there and replenish it, it
will stay – it has for 60 years,” said commission member Allen Burrus.
“Unfortunately, it will take constant work.”
funds were discussed, it was also mentioned by several committee
members that for many years, Oregon Inlet received millions in funds
while Hatteras Inlet only received $50,000 per year.
until five years ago we received $50,000 per year because we didn’t
need it,” said commission member Ernie Foster, a charter boat captain.
But the landscape has clearly changed since Hurricane Irene in 2011.
also explained that federal funds could not be relied upon as there was
only $75 million in funds to cover all the “low use navigation”
ports throughout the country – which includes Hatteras Inlet. “That’s
why the state is helping out,” he said. “It may not be an emphasis to
the U.S., but it’s important to the economy of North Carolina [to keep
the inlet open.]”
conversation and question-and-answer session with public attendees
segued into the introduction of Ken Wilson, the client program manager
for Coastal Planning & Engineering of North Carolina Inc., out of
company has recently been hired by Dare County to prepare the necessary
documents and obtain the permits for dredging the Connecting Channel.
Wilson noted that there was a meeting in Washington, N.C.,
earlier on Tuesday to discuss the plan with some of the federal and
state agencies that will be involved.
meeting was attended by Dare County representatives including Woodard,
Overman, Outten, and Waterways Commission member Steve “Creature”
Coulter, a Hatteras charter boat captain. Some of the agencies
attending included Tidewater Electric, the North Carolina Division of
Coastal Management, Army Corps of Engineers, Division of Water
Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and National Marine Fisheries.
Wilson displayed a map of the upcoming dredging project, as he described the plan in detail.
contract we have with the county right now -- and we’ll try to get
permits as quickly as possible – will allow us to do three things,” he
said. “It will allow the Corps to use their dredge to dredge a channel
following the deep water.”
showed a map in which a dotted black line boxed in a large area near
the Connecting Channel or West Channel region that was proposed for the
dredging, as well as a smaller dotted line that indicated where the
channel would most likely be dredged.
had a meeting today where some of the state and federal agencies asked
if we could close up that box a little bit, but we’re going to do a bit
of a balancing act to make sure that box is big enough to follow
whatever slough opens up for that area in the coming years,” he said.
“We want to make sure that we have enough flexibility to dredge
wherever it’s easiest for the Corps to dredge.
orange line is to show the dimensions of the channel that will likely
be dredged. That’s the dimensions of the channel that the DOT tried to
dredge several months back,” he added.
second objective of the permits is to allow the Corps of Engineers to
do maintenance dredging across the ocean bar to make sure they can get
that hopper dredge across the ocean bar if they need to.
the third objective is to establish a nearshore disposal area on the
northeastern edge of Ocracoke Island. Wilson noted that the National
Park Service was not in attendance Tuesday, but that he was optimistic
that establishing the disposal area would not be an issue.
addition, he noted that there was reason to be optimistic about the
power cables that are submerged in the channel’s path as well.
power company was out there today, and they’re confident that they sunk
that [power] cable 6 feet below where the water depth was at the time
they laid it,” he said. “We’re encouraged that we have a large enough
corridor in there [to dredge without affecting power cables.]”
documents required by the various agencies will take an initial 90 days
to prepare, and then another three to four months for the agencies to
respond, which means that the project could begin in the next six to
“Ideally we’re hoping that by wintertime, the permits will be in place and we’ll be able to move forward,” said Wilson.
meeting closed with an update from the U.S. Coast Guard, which had
gotten the vessel, Smilax, through to move several buoys in the inlet.
a potential new issue on the horizon, was brought up by Foster, who
said that shoaling had begun to develop at the mouth of the harbor at
Hatteras on the northeast side near the breakwater.
“We’ve got a year before it becomes an issue,” said Foster.
prospect of establishing a public boat launch on the county-owned
soundfront sites. Outten said that the N.C. Wildlife Resources
Commission had recently scouted county-owned sites in Buxton and
Rodanthe. The Buxton site, he said, was deemed too small for a
public launch but the Rodanthe site is a possibility.
next meeting of the Waterways Commission will be on Monday, Sept. 12,
at 7 p.m. at the Dare County Administration in Manteo.