the fishing tournament season kicked off this week in Hatteras, members
of the Dare County Waterways Commission were relieved that conditions
in Hatteras Inlet are finally in good shape.
got the best channel we’ve had in four or five years,” Commissioner
Steve “Creature” Coulter, a Hatteras charter boat captain, said at
Monday’s meeting in Manteo. “It’s marked. It’s deep.”
dredging projects at different areas in the inlet that were completed
this past fall and winter seem to have resolved the major navigational
issues created by stubborn shoaling.
Ernie Foster, also a charter boat captain, sounded almost weary in his
agreement, hinting at the panel’s persistent struggles to find funding
and to obtain permits for necessary work.
“It’s been five years and we finally have a reasonable channel,” Foster said.
Hatteras Village Offshore Open – the first of numerous fishing
tournaments planned for the season – started on Wednesday, and there
were plenty of boats coming in and out of the harbor, said Timothy
Midgett, manager of Hatteras Landing Marina.
“Yes, the inlet has been very good as of lately,” he said. “They’re just having a [much] easier time than in years past.”
said that of the more than 40 boats using the inlet, more than 20 or so
were participating in the tournament. But he said it’s going to take
more than one season of good water to restore Hatteras’ great name to
had a bad reputation because of the inlet,” he said. “They’re not
probably coming back until they hear it’s good for a period of time.”
to its credit, the Waterways Commission is also in better shape now to
address problems in Hatteras Inlet. Before it was reorganized a few
years ago, the commission primarily focused on Oregon Inlet, and
already was behind the eight ball when it was able to start addressing
the drastic increases in shoaling in Hatteras Inlet that started after
Hurricane Irene in 2011.
an agreement was made that the county’s Oregon Inlet Task Force deal
with most of that inlet’s issues, and that the Oregon Inlet and
Waterways Commission deal with Hatteras Inlet and other waterways in
the county. In August 2016, the commission was renamed the Dare County
took years for the commission to unravel a number of frustrating
jurisdictional conflicts that made it difficult to get the inlet
dredged. At times, some sections of navigational channels had as little
as two feet of water.
“There’s been a lot going on,” then-member Allen Burrus said in 2015, “and there’s been nothing going on.”
though there has since been significant progress, the current
commission is working to stay on top of the inevitable shoaling. The
Army Corps of Engineers will return in September to do maintenance
dredging of Rollinson Channel.
Horton, the Corps’ Deputy Chief of Navigation, said the project will
include dredging the Breakwater, an area at the mouth of Hatteras
Harbor that has worried the commission for many months.
also said that an area in Rodanthe Harbor at the entrance to the
1.7-mile emergency ferry channel is scheduled for dredging in August.
But Foster said the channel needs to be worked on before the hurricane season, which officially begins June 1.
needs to be taken care of,” he told Horton. “If we need to use the
ferries, we’re not going to be able to use the ferries.”
a later telephone interview, Horton explained that the August date was
put on the calendar as a placeholder. But a new survey of the
area is now on hand, and he said he expects that discussions will be
held with the state Ferry Division to reschedule the work.
The survey showed about 100 feet of shoaling, with about 5 feet of water. The remainder of the channel is 6 feet deep.
a change, nearly all of the meeting was not discussing Hatteras Inlet.
Instead, much of Monday’s meeting was focused on a shoaled channel into
Manteo Harbor that is keeping the 16th-century representative sailing
ship Elizabeth II from getting much-needed maintenance.