of the Dare County Waterways Commission made imminent plans at their
February 12 meeting to speed up dredging in Hatteras Inlet in order to
accomplish as much as possible before the March 31 deadline.
the South Ferry Channel (or 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 U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers (USACE) Corps of Engineers to receive permission to dredge
outside the permitted season.
of Monday, the dredging contractor’s plans were to tackle Big Foot
Slough in Ocracoke until the first week of March, and then move over to
Rocky Rollinson Channel, and then the mouth of the harbor.
hierarchy of the plans frustrated several commission members, who were
concerned about accomplishing all the hotspots before the end of March.
“If something isn’t done by the end of the timeframe, it would be the
entrance of the channel?” confirmed member Capt. Ernie Foster. “In
terms of absolutely critical, having a way in an out of the harbor is
addition to the tight timeline which could potentially be tightened
even further by unforeseen weather events, another wrench was in the
works as the sidecaster dredge Merritt remains unavailable for the
months of February and March, due to schedule repairs.
“This is a crisis situation,” said Foster. “If we have a major weather event, there will be no dredging in Hatteras this year.”
Petersen, chief of plants for the Corps, outlined several potential
plans for working without the Merritt, and addressing the bar in
Hatteras Inlet – a roughly 4 ft. deep shoal - which has become a
problem area for even small draft vessels.
are two ways [to proceed], if we can get across with the Currituck,”
said Petersen, referring to the hopper dredge that could be enlisted
for the project. “We can work from the outside in… or we can try to
change Currituck into a sidecaster dredge, and dump sand as we’re going
the Currituck into a sidecaster dredge would be an easy process,
although the vessel would not propel dredge material as far as the
feasibly possible,” said Petersen, noting that he would have to garner
permission, but that it could likely be obtained. “If they can do it in
Regulatory, they will go out of their way to make it happen.”
asked about the amount and number of days dredging should occur,
Petersen recommended that the commission start with a heavy-duty and
robust wave of dredging to clear the bar, and then addressing
maintenance dredging later.
opportunity to speed up the process was also examined, as dredging that
was scheduled for another North Carolina inlet near Holden Beach could
potentially be postponed, moving Hatteras Inlet up in line.
Folly [Inlet] is scheduled for three weeks of dredging, but there is no
[date] restrictions there,” said Petersen. “Jim Medlock [of the Corps]
will do calculations, and estimate the cubic yards of sand that needs
to be moved. Based on these numbers, and how rigid their schedule is,
he will look at the choices.”
that information, and the potential for moving up the schedule, the
commission and the Corps developed an imminent plan to get the ball
rolling by the end of the week, before the dredging at Lockwood Folly
are still funds remaining for the project, which would cover the bulk
of the dredging, and Waterways Commission and Dare County Board of
Commissioners (BOC) member Danny Couch said he would approach the BOC
and request the funds. “The board commissioners care about the inlet,
and this is not an unreasonable request,” he said. “We have some money
there, so let’s make the push.”
said he would reach out to the board and add the proposal if necessary
to the BOC’s agenda for their meeting on Monday, February 19.
“We need to move fast,” said Chairman Dave May. “This is crunch time.”
In other news, the members examined the progress of the commission’s long-term goal to find more room to place dredge material.
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 be placed up to 25 acres. The
agency is also evaluating whether additional material can be deposited
on Cora June.
permit for utilizing DOT Island is being finalized, and once that is
complete, the proposal goes to 13 separate entities which have a
collective 30 day comment period to respond to the endeavor. After
that, it goes to CAMA, which has an additional 150 days to make a
and fellow commission members, along with Sarah Schweitzer of the N.C.
Wildlife Resources Commission, were also examining a newly available
potential grant for dredge spoil islands, or the “beneficial use of
[US Army Corps of Engineers] USACE is looking to recommend 10 projects
for the BUDM program that would allow for transport and placement of
dredged material at full federal expense,” stated the original
announcement of the grant from the American Shore and Beach
Preservation Association (ASBPA.). “This was one of ASBPA’s top
priorities over the past 2 years, because it would push the USACE to
work more closely with states and stakeholders to make better use of
dredged material from federal navigation projects, and could
potentially help some local communities access beach quality sand that
might otherwise be wasted. Also, as a ‘Pilot Program’ this will result
in a report that recommends how USACE can better and more efficiently
utilize dredged material going forward.”
on the right track,” said Couch. “We just have to push, and keep
pushing. We have some momentum here and we have to keep going…. We have
no other options.”
The next Dare County Waterways Commission meeting will be on March 12 in Manteo.
will also be the last meeting for Project Manager Administrator Jenny
Jones, who after 24 years of service with the county – 17 of them with
the Waterways Commission – is retiring in March.