Dare County Waterways Commission started to look ahead to possible late
summer / early fall dredging of the South Ferry Channel in Hatteras
Inlet at a brief June 11 meeting in Buxton.
Commission members were grateful for the current
navigable condition of Hatteras Inlet, but noted that maintenance
dredging of the South Ferry Channel would be needed eventually after a
summer of calm weather and southwest winds.
“This isn’t a 5K, it’s a marathon,” said member
Dan Oden. “And come September, if it’s closed up again, we don’t want
to be sitting on our hands.”
But the good news for members was that mariners were returning, and were getting through the South Ferry Channel with relative ease.
“We’re seeing [visitors] return who haven’t been
here in quite a while,” said Oden. “The Miss Hatteras is going in and
out, and he’s one of the largest boats [in the area.]”
“However… it is showing signs of trying to shoal
up, and we should start talking about maintenance dredging late this
summer,” he added.
Waterways Commission member and Dare County
Commissioner Danny Couch said he would reach out to the county after
the meeting to request funds to conduct a survey of the South Ferry
Channel, which will start the process for getting special permission to
“It’s a good use of the funds, just so we can see
what’s happening there,” said Couch. “We need the survey first to see
what’s going on.”
Dredging the South Ferry Channel in Hatteras
Inlet, (also known as the Connecting Channel), is allowed from October
1 through March 31.
But outside of this window, 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.
The county was granted multiple extensions by
these state and federal agencies to dredge outside of the permitted
timeframe in 2017, but it was noted at previous meetings that obtaining
future extensions could be challenging.
In related news, the sidecaster dredge Merritt,
which is currently in a shipyard in Memphis undergoing repairs, is
expected to be back in the water and potentially available for Hatteras
and Ocracoke islands in July, as needed. The hopper dredge Meriden will
also be in the area come mid to late July.
The Dare County Waterways Commission also
revisited the conversation about the emergency ferry channel from
Rodanthe to Stumpy Point, with member Ernie Foster noting that ensuing
that the route was navigable was crucial in hurricane season.
“If we have to start using that channel for
emergency services for all of Hatteras Island tomorrow, will we be OK?”
said Foster. “Making sure it is usable is our responsibility.” It was
noted that the process for addressing potential repairs and maintenance
in the emergency ferry channel is currently in progress, though there
is not yet a timeframe on when it will be complete.
Couch also noted at the meeting that Avon Harbor
needed to be revisited as well. “We need to see what condition it’s
in,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of commercial fishermen there now,
but historically, it was a commercial fishing [hub.]” Couch said he
would start the process by talking with local fishermen in the area,
“to take a temperature reading of what’s happening there.”
Commission members Dave May, (Chairman), Danny
Couch, Dan Oden, Ernie Foster, and newly appointed member Natalie
Kavanagh were in attendance at the June 11 meeting. Three seats on the
Dare County Waterways Commission were also recently re-appointed for
Danny Couch, Ernie Foster, and Fletcher Willey.
The next meeting of the Dare County Waterways Commission is at 7:00 p.m. Monday, July 9 in Manteo.