Tropical Storm Chris was spinning out in the Atlantic off the Outer
Banks this week, Dare County Waterways Commission members on Monday
discussed progress on dredging an irksome small shoal clogging the
emergency ferry channel in Rodanthe Harbor.
a minor job that the Army Corps of Engineers would be able to take care
of soon, but the work has been complicated by the recent discovery of a
emergency channel between Rodanthe and Stumpy Point is a critical
transportation backup for Hatteras Island when roads or bridges are
inaccessible after major storms or accidents.
the dredge departing earlier than expected, Joen Petersen, U.S. Corps
of Engineers Chief of Floating Plants, stressed that time is of the
essence. The dredge that could quickly do the project, he explained, is
nearly ready to leave the shipyard in Manns Harbor, where it was being
repaired, and head to Florida.
talking literally a day for those 400 (cubic) yards,” he told
commissioners, referring to the small volume of material that needed to
be removed. “My concern is we get to Miami and I start moving on those
projects, and I don’t get back for a year.”
challenge, however, is getting the damaged outfall repaired no later
than a few days after the dredge leaves the shipyard by around July 15,
responded Ann Daisey, the Waterways Commission administrator.
said in an interview that she had recently discovered that the
corrugated outfall pipe at the site where dredge material is deposited
had been cut in two for some time. Records show that the last repair
was in 2013, she said, but there is no record of subsequent damage.
spoil site has limited capacity for additional material, Daisey added,
although it has not yet been determined how much that would be. The
pipe directs water that drains from the sediment into the harbor.
main thing that needs to be done before they can dredge is to get that
outfall pipe repaired,” Daisey said. “It would inefficient on cost for
them to leave and then come back.”
earlier consultation with engineers at Albemarle and Associates, a
formal bid had been put out for a complete repair project, she
said. With the new urgency to get the channel cleared before the
dredge leaves, Daisey said that the engineers have reached out to a
former contractor who had previously done work on the culvert.
hope is that at least a partial repair could be done to allow the
dredge to remove enough material to make it navigable for the ferry.
The 24-inch diameter pipe, divided in 30- to 40-foot sections, would
need two or three sections replaced, depending on the condition
of the mean high tide portion.
work on the pipe, in my opinion, would take less than a day because
we’re not extending the pipe to the original distance out into the
sound,” Daisey said, adding, “It needs to happen this week.”
to Corps estimates, about 300 cubic yards of material would have to
dredged to achieve a depth of 6 feet at the entrance to the channel –
the minimum required for the ferry, which draws 5 ½ feet. Currently,
there is only 5 ½ feet of water at the shoaled spot.
“Since we have a tropical storm sitting right there, it would be good to have it done,” said commissioner Natalie Kavanaugh.
members in attendance at the meeting in Manteo were chairman David May
and commissioners Ernie Foster, Dan Oden and Steve “Creature”
of the discussion, however, centered on dredged and undredged areas of
the federal Rollinson Channel leading to Hatteras Harbor, with some
heated exchanges about the reasoning behind recent work.
charter captains - including Coulter, Foster and Oden – have been
complaining for some time about shoaling at the breakwater at the mouth
of the harbor. All three expressed frustration that a part of the same
channel had recently been dredged for the new passenger ferry, although
that operation has been delayed.
the long-stated concern about the pinch at the breakwater, Foster said,
he was flabbergasted to learn about the nearby work.
spent four years talking about it,” Foster said about the breakwater
shoaling. “They literally dredged a hole in the middle of
Coulter said that vessels are now forced to hug the fender to get through, causing some to run aground.
didn’t discuss it with us – the people that use it,” Coulter said,
addressing Corps representatives in the audience. “They were within 200
yards of where we needed them to dredge . . . Everything was done so
the passenger ferry would have enough water, but the passenger ferry is
not going to run for six months. “
response, Jim Medlock, Corps’ civil works project manager, said that
the dredge is scheduled to return to the area in mid-September.
“It’s not just that they have this breakwater,” he said. “There’s other work that needs to be done.”
Corps’ Wilmington district commander Col. Robert Clark, who was
attending the Waterways Commission meeting for the first time, had
we direct the contractor how to do his work, he’s going to jack up his
price – that’s what happens,” Clark said. “So our business is we
generally tell them, ‘Here’s the scope of the work.’ We certainly will
ask them. If there’s no cost . . . “
Coulter said that since the dredge, after leaving Ocracoke, drove right
past the area where the dredging was needed, it should have been in its
up where Clark left off, Medlock agreed that it would be reasonable to
talk to the dredge contractor about schedule or work adjustments when
‘It would be nice if we can continue to use the harbor,” Foster said sarcastically.
with the inefficiency of the bureaucracy soon shifted to the
overarching complexity of getting necessary maintenance. A patchwork of
federal and state authorized channels through the inlet often requires
a laundry list of permits from different agencies, resulting in a
time-consuming process. But increased shoaling in the waterway has made
it more challenging to keep the inlet navigable for commercial and
recreational vessels as well as vehicular and passenger ferries.
increased shoaling has also created a need for more disposal sites for
dredge material. One new site, “DOT island,” is close to final
approval, but more are necessary.
idea of having Hatteras Inlet declared a federal project was raised
again by members as the best solution, but Medlock reaffirmed that it
would take an act of Congress. And Col. Clark dimmed any hopes of more
federal funds being appropriated in future to the Corps for
it would be possible to try to get authorization that would provide
more flexibility for dredging projects, Medlock said.
“I suggest we work on both at the same time,” he said. “Look for new disposal sites while seeking the authorization.”
The next meeting of the Dare County Waterways Commission is scheduled for Aug. 13, 2018 at 7 p.m. in Buxton.