A number of imminent and proposed dredging projects were tackled at the Dare County Waterways Commission meeting, which was held at the Fessenden Center in Buxton on Monday, September 11.
An archaeological survey that would allow the Corps of Engineer to dredge the southern channel in Hatteras Inlet has been completed by Dare County. As a result, the Corps will be able to start dredging with the sidecaster dredge, the Merritt, starting on Wednesday, assuming the weather cooperates.
The new area of dredging, referred to at the meeting as the “Southern Connecting Channel,” is located south of where the initial early summer dredging of the connecting channel took place, and is an area with deeper waters that has been utilized by charter boats in recent weeks. The Corps is allowed to dredge for 10 days due to a moratorium that allows dredging during the otherwise off-limits timeframe of March through October, and this 10 day period does not include days where dredging may be cancelled due to inclement weather. $440,000 has been provided by the county to complete this project.
After the dredging of the southern channel is complete, the hopper dredges the Currituck and the Meriden are schedule to perform maintenance dredging in early November. The sidecaster dredge performing the initial work, the Merritt, will be unavailable for roughly 6-7 months after this imminent dredging project due to scheduled repairs.
The dredging will take place inside the box where the survey was conducted, and the expanse of the area gives the Corps the ability to follow the best waters. “We do have flexibility and a little leeway where Dare County did an archeological study,” said Jim Medlock, civil works project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“This will actually require less dredging, and the environmental impact will be less because of the deeper water,” said Commission member Capt. Ernie Foster. “Being in the position where we are now, we can go where there’s the deepest water which gives us two advantages – an economic advantage and an environmental advantage. It’s two wins, and no losses.”
There was additional good news about an upcoming $5.8 million dollar project that included sections of Hatteras Inlet, and particularly Rollison Channel.
The new project for the Corps, which was recently approved, will tackle several problem areas, which includes the area from the Breakwater to about 1,500 feet out, and portions of the Rollison Channel.
The project was approved because the Corps was able to show that these areas were affected and altered after Hurricane Matthew. “The funds that we have focus on that part of the channel where we were able to show [a difference] before and after Matthew,” said Medlock.
A timeframe for this dredging project has not been set in stone, however the Corps hope to have the contract for this project this week, and to be able to start by November.
Hurricane discussions surfaced several times during the meeting, with commissioners concerned about dredging before or after Jose’s potential impacts. In addition, the commission discussed the Rodanthe / Stumpy Point emergency ferry route, which is utilized after a storm when access is cut off to the island.
Chris Bock, Hatteras operations superintendent for the NCDOT Ferry Division, reported that they were able to make a dry run at Stumpy Point 14 days ago, but noted that conditions could change with a full ferry loaded down with vehicles.
Bock also reported that a request was in the works to perform emergency dredging in Rodanthe.
“The reason we maintain these two harbors is because of the possibility that we may be cut off,” said Commissioner Foster. “That’s something that [we] need to be fairly cognizant of.”
The commission also voted to be more proactive in future projects, especially in finding dredge spoil sites for potential upcoming projects in the area.
Six members of the commission were present at the Monday night meeting, as well as representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard, the NCDOT Ferry Division, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The next meeting of the Dare County Waterways Commission is currently scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 10 in Buxton.