advantage of a lull in crisis mode, members of the Dare County
Waterways Commission spent Tuesday’s quiet winter night planning
proactive steps to stay ahead of issues looming this year in Hatteras
is a good time for us to set the bar,” Chairman Dave May told the panel
at its first meeting of 2018 in Manteo. “Where do we want to be?”
surveying, permitting and financing of various projects all have to be
anticipated and planned, commissioners agreed. Approval of a new
disposal area for dredge material is critical, and communication
between Hyde and Dare counties, as well as the state and federal
governments, needs to better coordinated.
going to be the symphony director?” asked member Danny Couch, who also
represents Hatteras Island on the Dare County Board of Commissioners.
no answer was provided to Couch’s rhetorical question, the commission’s
discussion touched on the frequent territorial headache over obtaining
authorization for different projects that is likely to persist in the
members in attendance were Dan Oden, Fletcher Willey, Ernie Foster and
Steve “Creature” Coulter. Ron Lowe was absent.
that have authority over projects – and budgets - that impact Hatteras
Inlet include the U.S Corps of Engineers, the National Park Service,
the Coast Guard, the state Division of Marine Fisheries, the state
Ferry Division, the state Department of Environmental Quality and the
state Wildlife Resources Commission, among others.
of the more aggravating situations to the Waterways Commission is that
shoaling issues in different parts of the same channel have had to be
addressed with different permits from different agencies and levels of
even difficult for the Coast Guard to put their navigational aides in
the proper location because of jurisdictional issues.
idea that we have a body of water and they dredge and we dredge and you
dredge and we can’t dredge together,” Foster remarked, “it gets to be a
of last year, for instance, was spent securing an agreement and funding
between the state, the Corps and the county to do dredging in a small
section of impassable channel that acquired the name Connecting
Channel. Although the area was in the vicinity of the Corps’
federal project, the Corps would not be authorized to work in the
Connecting Channel without the agreement.
But May, emphasizing that “language is very, very important,” objected to the confusion the name has created.
don’t want it to be called the Connecting Channel anymore,” May said,
referring to an area close to the Ocracoke ferry dock. “That’s
the South Ferry Channel – we don’t need anybody’s … permission to get
in there and dredge. That has been maintained by the state
bottom line, he added, is that when it comes to end of March, “we can
use whatever crumbs [of funds] we have left to dredge that.”
But Oden stressed that he believes that it is most important for the county be prepared to jump in when necessary.
“Now’s the time for us to be proactive and make those plans,” he said. “When the southwest winds start to act up, we’re ready.”
also expressed considerable concern about needing more room to place
dredge material. After the Corps completes its maintenance
dredging of Rollinson Channel that is scheduled to begin on Feb. 21,
the disposal capacity on Cora June Island, a bird island located near
the Hatteras docks, will be at maximum level. Meanwhile,
the Wildlife Commission is working to approve reconstruction of
so-called DOT Island, a dredge island near Hatteras dock that used to
be five times its current size. If permitted, new dredge material could
placed up to 25 acres. The agency is also evaluating whether additional
material can be deposited on Cora June.
wanted to know “who is cracking a whip” to speed up the process,
because without a disposal site, dredging projects can be held
something we need to be on because if we have another shoaling
incident, we’ll be out of business for another year,” he said. “We need
someone in an official capacity with the county to have absolute
clarity on what is happening.”
additional worry, Coulter said, is that the mouth of Sloop Channel, the
part of the current horseshoe-shaped ferry channel near Ocracoke, is
needing attention. The area has become more difficult for both ferries
and charter boats to navigate.
“It’s gotten worse,” he said. “It’s narrowed up and it’s going to be a problem for everyone.”
Winslow, environmental supervisor with the Ferry Division’s marine
maintenance unit, told commissioners that a survey is currently being
done by the state of the “Horseshoe Channel,” which is the first in
three years. The findings will be presented at the Ocracoke Waterways
Commission meeting on Jan. 29, he said.
Sloop Channel work would be included in the state’s major CAMA permit,
said Catherine Peele, Ferry Division environmental specialist. Still,
the dredge spoil has to go somewhere.
“So we’ve got everything we need, but we just don’t have what we need,” said Coulter.
Coulter encouraged the waterways commission to work on improved collaboration, whether with the Federal or State governments.
got to mash all the permits into one . . . It’s in everybody’s
best interest,” he said, adding: “There’s no one in this room who
doesn’t know what needs to be done.”
Couch reminded his fellow members that a lot was accomplished last
year, especially in securing the agreement and funding for the county
dredge project, May couldn’t help splashing on some cold reality.
a time years ago when he joined other commission members on a trip to
Washington, D.C., May described a lesson in politics.
went up there thinking we were going to educate them about what’s going
on down here, and I was shocked that they knew exactly what was going
on,” he said. “I was thinking, ‘If you knew, why hasn’t anything
changed? Why aren’t you doing anything about it?’”
next Waterways Commission meeting will be held at 7 p.m in Buxton on
Feb. 13. Commission administrator Jenny Gray Jones said that member
Chuck Easley had notified her that he has resigned from the commission.
It will up to the Board of Commissioners to appoint another member, or
to allow the commission to go back to its traditional seven members.
a surprise announcement, Jones also said that she would only be
overseeing the next two meetings. After 24 years of service with the
county – 17 of them with the Waterways Commission – Jones said she is
retiring in March.