April 10, 2018

After Dredging Deadline Passes, Frustration
Mounts about Mouth of Hatteras Harbor 


Members 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 have.”

“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 “Creature” Coulter.

“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 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 March 31.

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 permitted season.

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 conducted.

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), and then
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 the
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 David May.

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.

comments powered by Disqus