Congressman Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., has called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to allocate additional funding to dredge Eastern North Carolina’s Oregon Inlet.
In a letter to Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy and Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick at the Army Corps of Engineers, Jones explained that the inlet’s main channel has shoaled from its authorized depth of 14 feet to under 3 feet in some places.
Furthermore, the $800,000 provided for the project in President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget request has already been spent. As a result, the jobs and economic impact related to the inlet are in serious peril.
While Congress no longer has the ability to legislatively increase funding for specific projects because of an earmark ban imposed in 2011, Congress did attempt to address some of the waterway maintenance issues across the nation in the recently-passed omnibus Fiscal Year 2015 appropriations bill.
In that bill, Congress created several unallocated pots of money for different project categories, and gave the Corps a list of criteria to use in determining which projects to fund from these pots.
In his letter to the Corps’ top two leaders, Jones made the case that Oregon Inlet is exactly type of project that Congress had in mind when it provided the Corps with these additional pots of money. He also laid out exactly how Oregon Inlet meets the criteria for project selection established by Congress.
Two of the project categories include navigation maintenance, which has $45 million in additional funding, and “small, remote, or subsistence navigation,” which has $42.5 million.
Jones cites an economic study that showed that, even in 2013 with the channel shoaled for much of the year, Oregon Inlet supported 4,384 jobs and provided $548 million in annual economic impact. He said that if the channel were maintained, it is estimated that the inlet 5,397 jobs and provide $693 in annual economic impact.
The congressman also notes that Dare County and the state are working on a plan to fund ongoing pro-active maintenance dredging using their own funds. The letter raises the possibility that if the channel were dredged to its authorized dimensions, the county and the state may be able to take on some future maintenance.
“The maintenance of the Oregon Inlet is vital to the economic success of Eastern North Carolina,” said Jones. “Fishermen, recreational boaters and the Coast Guard must have reliable access through the inlet, and I will continue to do everything I can to fight for that cause.”
Jones has also asked for more funding for Morehead City harbor.
Click here to read the letter to the Army Corps from Congressman Jones.