April 10, 2018
After Dredging Deadline Passes, Frustration
Mounts about Mouth of Hatteras Harbor
By JOY CRIST
of the Dare County Waterways Commission were visibly frustrated at
their April 10 meeting that troublesome shoaling at the mouth of
Hatteras Harbor was not able to be addressed before the March 31 dredging deadline.
Other parts of Ocracoke and Hatteras inlets, including the state ferry
channel, were successfully dredged with the hopper dredge Currituck by
the end of March. However, the Breakwater – a comparatively small area
close to the harbor – was not able to be dredged before time ran out,
primarily because of bad weather and ensuing delays.
“The contractor finished as much as they could, and we got an extra 10
day [extension] for the ferry channel,” said Jim Medlock, Wilmington
District Navigation Program Project Manager for the Army Corps of
Engineers. “But we ran out of time, and we need disposal areas we don’t
“You asked the ferry system what their priority is, but you didn’t ask
us what our priority is. Nobody asked us,” said commission member Steve
“The South Connecting Channel is 10 feet deep, and the mouth of the
Breakwater is closing up,” said commission member Dan Oden. “I think
our problem is that we’re not sure who to complain to. We’ve talked
about this for 12 consecutive months. Then we have a pipeline ¼ mile
away, and we have the mouth of the harbor that is literally closing up.”
“We’ve been bringing this up for the last five years,” added member
Ernie Foster. “We have a 13 foot deep hole [in some areas] when we only
need eight feet, and we may not be able to get out of the harbor… This
isn’t exactly a newsflash for anybody.”
Dredging the South Ferry Channel, also known as the
Connecting Channel, in Hatteras Inlet is allowed from October 1 through
But after that, approval is required from the N.C. Department of
Environmental Quality, the Division of Coastal Management, and the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers to receive permission to dredge outside the
Dredging will resume in September, when the mouth of the harbor can be
addressed, but board members and the Army Corps of Engineers discussed
more imminent dredging options for the area in order to ensure it
remains open and navigable all season.
One of the largest challenges for the small area at the mouth of the harbor is finding an approved disposal site.
Though member Ernie Foster estimated that the amount of proposed
dredged material is “less than half the size of this [meeting] room,”
and the material is 90% sand per earlier surveys, it still needs to be
deposited in an approved site in order for the short-term project to be
In addition, the larger hopper dredges can’t access the small area, so
the Corps would need to enlist a multi-use vessel, the Snell.
There were several methods discussed by the Corps of Engineers and the commission to proceed.
One option is to enlist two boats, so that material could be
transferred to the second vessel, (such as the Meriden or Currituck),
dispersed elsewhere, however using two boats would naturally double the
cost to dredge. The other option was to use a barge and / or dumpsters
to deposit the material and take it to a yet unknown site nearby, and /
or to truck it to a different location.
In both cases, the dredging would be a mechanical option with the Snell
removing the material with a clam bucket, and putting it somewhere
temporarily until it could be transferred to an approved site.
“We need an upland disposal site, which is a non-federal
responsibility,” said Medlock. “But we’re working to see what we can do
with what we have.”
Steve Shriver, Corps team leader in the survey section, said that a
similar operation was completed 5-6 years ago at Walter Slough, with
Public Works Department of Dare County lending a hand with filling
20-30 dumpsters, and transporting the material out of the area.
The Corps and the Commission agreed to investigate the two respective
parts – getting the Snell in the area to do the dredging with a clam
bucket, and finding a way to get the material to an approved site.
“We can use the clam bucket on the Snell to get the sand, and you need
to figure out where to put it,” said Medlock. “We need help with that
Part B – when the sand gets out of the clam bucket, where does it go?”
The commission agreed to reach out to the county to see what the
options were for the ensuing materials. “We’re a voice for the county
commissioners, so we’ll need to check with the county,” said Chairman
The Corps also reported that they would look into paying for the
project with federal funds, which was an option provided it wasn’t too
costly – a concern that comes with the two-boat method. “We’ll work
hard on the federal side, and you work hard on Part B,” said Medlock.
In more positive news, the U.S. Coast Guard was able to place buoys to
properly mark the ferry channel in Hatteras Inlet – a feat that hadn’t
been accomplished in three years due to shoaling. In addition, roughly
100,000 yards of material was removed through Big Foot Slough off of
Ocracoke, alleviating shoaling concerns in that area.
Members Fletcher Willey and Ronald Lowe also attended the
meeting. Former member Ronald Lowe has submitted his resignation
and will officially resign in June. Pending approval by the Dare County
Board of Commissioners, Natalie Kavanagh from Frisco has agreed to fill
his slot and was also in attendance at the meeting.
It was also noted that starting with the May session, future meetings
of the Dare County Waterways Commission would be recorded.
The next meeting of the Dare County Waterways Commission is May 14 at 7
p.m. at the Dare County Administration Building in Manteo.