May 16, 2018
Dare Asks State Lawmakers to Fund Purchase of Hopper Dredge
County is actively pursuing creation of a partnership between the state
and a yet-to-be-identified private company to purchase a shallow-draft
hopper dredge, with the county paying for its operation in Oregon and
Hatteras inlets and other channels.
And while Dare would likely be using it the most, the dredge would be
available to help clear other waterways along North Carolina’s
Dredging has crawled to a near halt as federal funding for smaller
inlets and harbors has been repeatedly cut by Congress and the White
House for decades.
Dare County and North Carolina have since picked up the slack by paying
the Army Corps of Engineers to clean out the channels with their
The effort is being led by County Commissioner Jim Tobin, who said at
the May 7 board meeting he has made multiple trips to Raleigh to
negotiate with members of the General Assembly on a bill that would
allow purchase of the dredge.
However, time is of the essence to get the bill passed this year, as
the General Assembly opens its short session on Wednesday, and many
inside and outside the state capitol say they expect to adjourn by
Under an early draft of legislation in the state Senate, $15 million
would be allocated from North Carolina’s Shallow Draft Navigation
Channel Dredging and Aquatic Weed Fund for a forgivable loan through
Dare County to a private company that would pay for the dredge.
Established by the General Assembly in 2013, the fund gets a percentage
of the state’s gasoline tax and a portion of boat registration fees.
A total of $22 million was available for grants statewide as of last
October, according to a presentation by the state Division of Water
Resources in New Bern.
The bill would require the private company to pay the other $15 million
for the dredge out of its pocket, and provide work to Dare County at a
significantly lower rate, in exchange for the state’s loan eventually
In a formal resolution passed at the May 7 meeting, commissioners
called on the state to increase dredging in Dare County and adjacent
waterways, actively pursue the acquiring of additional dredging
equipment, and reiterated the county’s commitment to fund dredging
The resolution includes a pledge of $3,250,000, with $3 million already set aside from an occupancy tax allocation for dredging.
“This commitment by Dare County is for five years,” Tobin said. “The
(state’s) commitment is for the dredge to be in Dare County for the
first ten years.”
Matching money from the state that would bring the total to $10 million
for operation of the dredge over a five-year period and would come from
the shallow draft channel Fund.
County Manager Bobby Outten said the authorizing legislation, which has
been through a number of changes in recent weeks, would have the county
enter an agreement with the private contractor that would give the
county almost exclusive use of the dredge.
Concerns have arisen that the dredge would only be used to keep Oregon
Inlet open, since $9 million of the county and state funds are
allocated to those waters, and an early version of the bill
specifically mentioned the Oregon Inlet Task Force would be in charge.
“(The company would) own it, they maintain it, they operate it … we
don’t have anything to do with that,” Outten told commissioners. “What
does happen in the legislation is, (the dredge is) assigned to us.”
Outten said Monday that means the dredge would be available to use anywhere in the county and not just Oregon Inlet.