If shoaling and weather conditions permit, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Wilmington District will begin emergency dredging operations at Oregon Inlet Wednesday to remove the shoaling that has been obstructing the federal channel passage for commercial fishing vessels.
On Saturday, March 28, the U.S. Coast Guard closed the Oregon Inlet waters near the Bonner Bridge to any vessels with a draft greater than two feet. Ships with a draft more than two feet are not allowed within 100 yards of the Bonner Bridge until further notice, the Coast Guard said.
The goal of the side cast dredge Merritt will be to open the federal channel at the navigation span of the Bonner Bridge to a controlling depth of 8 feet so the hopper dredge Currituck can work to open the channel to as great a depth as possible up to its authorized depth of 14 feet.
The most recent hydrographic survey conducted on March 27 showed the federal channel with a depth of six feet through the bridge fenders and less than 2 feet seaward of the span.
“We recognize the importance of this gateway for vessels traveling in and out of the Oregon Inlet and will continue to do everything possible to re-open the channel,” said Wilmington District Donnie Potter, Chief Physical Support Branch.
The Wilmington District estimates the cost of keeping the federal channel dredged to the depth needed for commercial vessels is from $7 – 8 million annually. The Corps was allocated $2,000,000 in FY15 for the entire project of Manteo (Shallowbag Bay), not just Oregon Inlet. The availability of dredges, along with funding, is the key to keeping the Oregon Inlet passable.