Dare County’s own dredge, the Miss Katie, arrived in Hatteras village on Thursday, January 26, in order to conduct a maintenance dredging event in Hatteras Inlet’s Connector Channel over the next few days.
“The dredge is there, and it’s supposed to start working this morning,” said Dare County Waterways Commission Chairman Steve “Creature” Coulter. “We asked for 7 to 10 days, but we’re not sure how long it will dredge – it looks like they will have good wind and weather for 5 to 6 days, though.”
The Connector Channel is currently navigable for mariners, with depths in the 7-8 ft. range, and it’s hopeful that this dredging event will keep it that way in the months to come.
“We’re not having any problem with the Connector Channel, we just need to widen it, deepen, it, and get it ready for the summer so we don’t have a problem,” said Coulter. “Hopefully, we’ll see really good results, and will move some material out of the area instead of just moving it around, which can happen with the [US Army Corps of Engineers’] sidecaster dredge.”
“The Miss Katie is a hopper dredge,” added Coulter. “She has the capability to do sidecasting, but that’s not what she’ll be doing this time. She’ll be picking up the sand and dumping it in the ocean.”
The construction and acquisition of the Miss Katie dredge was a county-launched project that took years to come to fruition.
In the mid-2010s, an idea started to float that the county should buy its own dredge to target areas as needed, without relying on the Corps’ schedule and availability.
In 2019, the Dare County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a contract for the construction and operation of a new shallow-draft hopper dredge for use in the various channels and inlets throughout the county.
The 156-foot dredge, christened on October 13 at a ceremony in Wanchese, is the result of a public-private partnership with Greenville, N.C.-based EJE Dredging Service, and the Miss Katie was built with a $15 million allocation from the state Shallow Draft Navigation fund.
EJE owns and operates the Miss Katie, and the Oregon Inlet Task Force has been charged by Dare County to manage the dredge, including its operation schedule and project monitoring.
The vessel is able to operate in both Oregon and Hatteras Inlets for up to 12 hours a day, and will be a county-managed resource to continually keep both inlets open in the years to come.
The Miss Katie has already been at work in Oregon Inlet since the fall of 2022, and this is the first time that she will tackle the channels of Hatteras Inlet.
“Hopefully, we’re going to use her for maintenance issues, [not emergencies],” said Coulter. “We mentioned that may want to do one more dredging event at the end of March, too, right before the season starts.”
Dare County Commissioner and Waterways Commissioner Danny Counch said that the arrival of the Miss Katie in Hatteras was a good sign for the spring and summer fishing seasons to come.
“It’s a gift,” he said. “This is important, because we have four tournaments in Hatteras Inlet [in the summer], and these boats need to know now if they can get in and out. They want to make their plans, and do so confidently, and now they can.”
“We’ve had a lame-duck status for the last couple of years due to the channel and COVID, but this is a new beginning,” added Couch. “It’s time we start making a name for ourselves as a destination, and as a player for these big [East Coast] tournaments, and that’s what this dredge is going to do for us. We’re seeing some of these dreams finally come true.”