A survey conducted this past weekend by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers identified an alternate channel at Hatteras Inlet that could temporarily be used to provide ferry service.
The N.C. Department of Transportation’s Ferry Division has formally asked the U.S. Coast Guard to mark it with navigational aids to resume ferry service sometime next week, weather permitting.
The alternate channel is approximately 11 miles long and will take about an hour and 25 minutes to cross one-way. It is a temporary solution only until dredging is completed on the primary route through Rollinson Channel.
A ferry schedule will be announced once the USCG has placed the navigational aids, and the ferry division has conducted a trial run.
Once ferry service resumes, the extra runs added to the Swan Quarter-Ocracoke route to accommodate residents and vendors will cease, as will toll-exempt status.
Heavy shoaling in Rollinson Channel has been a problem since Hurricane Irene and was exacerbated by Hurricane Sandy in late October.
The pipeline dredge Richmond has been working to clear the channel since December. The Corps has a contract with the dredge’s owner for the work, which is scheduled to be completed by March 31.
As of today, the dredging project at the Hatteras ferry channel was 65 percent complete by quantity. An update on further progress will be provided as soon as additional information is received from the Corps.
Ferries ran only at high tide for the first few weeks of this year, and the Ferry Division finally shut down operations on Jan. 18 because the channel became impassable.
The only access to Ocracoke has been via ferries from Swan Quarter and Cedar Island. The crossing takes about two and a half hours.
For more information about the Hatteras ferry route status, travelers can sign-up to receive messages on Twitter by going to www.twitter.com/ncdot_ferry or visit the N.C. 12 Facebook page.