U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ sidecaster dredge Merritt arrived in
Hatteras Inlet and began the long awaited dredging of the Connecting
Channel for several days before it was redirected to address an
emergency situation near Ocracoke Inlet.
Merritt arrived at Hatteras Inlet in late April, and was able to dredge
from Saturday April 22 until Monday April 24, when it had to be
diverted to address an emergency dredging need at Big Foot Slough,
which is close to the entrance to Ocracoke Harbor.
few weeks ago, a Sound Class ferry had run aground in the Big Foot
Slough region, and the area was progressively getting worse, making it
more and more difficult for the Cedar Island and Swan Quarter ferry
routes to Ocracoke Island to continue.
about a week, we weren’t able to run the Sea Level at all, which is our
biggest boat,” says Tim Hass, NCDOT Public Relations Officer (Ferry
& Div. 1) “It was getting to the point that the other [ferry] boats
would not be able to run through the area either, so we asked for
the tide was low, or the wind was blowing in the wrong direction, the
entrance to Ocracoke [was compromised] and that affected all sound
ferries,” he adds.
the emergency dredging occurred, the Swan Quarter and Cedar Island
ferries had to adjust to a two-round-trips per day schedule, as opposed
to the three-round-trips per day wintertime schedule, because of the
Sea Level’s absence. Now, after a few days of dredging, the Cedar
Island and Swan Quarter ferry schedule is back on track, and the two
routes will add additional crossings during the day starting May 23rd
when the summer schedule goes into effect.
that the immediate shoaling off of Ocracoke has been addressed, the
Merritt can return to its work at Hatteras Inlet, per Hass.
Merritt got us to the point in Ocracoke where it wasn’t critical any
more to dredge,” says Hass. “Now, they’re going to Hatteras Inlet, and
then they will come back and get the Ocracoke dredging [completely]
done for now.”
the Merritt is permitted to dredge the Hatteras Inlet until May 15, due
to an extension that was granted after the March 31 date passed.
Dredging the Connecting Channel in Hatteras Inlet is allowed from
October 1 through March 31, but after this timeframe, an extension is
required from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality
(NCDEQ), CAMA and the Corps of Engineers to receive permission to
dredge outside the permitted season.
further extension that will allow dredging until mid-June has also been
applied for by the county, just in case weather or other unforeseen
factors delay the process further.
county has applied for extensions in order to give us more time, and
they asked for an extension until the 15th of June,” says Steve
“Creature” Coulter, a local Hatteras captain and board member of the
Dare County Waterways Commission.
the extension will not be required, the weather will cooperate, and
both Hatteras and Ocracoke Inlets’ work will be completed soon. “We
eagerly await their return,” says Coulter.