The Dare County Waterways Commission met on Monday night in Buxton to get updates on issues related to channel and harbor access, and particularly the emergency ferry channel in Rodanthe.
According to an expedited July 29 survey done by the Army Corps of Engineers on the emergency ferry channel, which runs from Rodanthe to Stumpy Point, the path is now clear in case of an emergency. This has been the major issue on the minds of commissioners all summer long, so the news was a welcomed surprise. After a plea to the Dare County Commissioners for support on this issue, a dredge was originally scheduled for this month. Lance Winslow from the NCDOT Ferry Division confirmed that his tow drew a roomy 7.5 feet of water through the channel, and plans for the dredging will now cease. The Corps attributed the clearing to soft material and grasses that moved out of the channel after an older survey was performed.
“It’s been hard for us to get access to Rodanthe in the past, but we are hoping to increase our frequency there in the future so as to avoid any other issues with the emergency channel,” Steve Shriver of the Corps said.
The spoil site in which the extra material from the emergency dredge was supposed to go was repaired in preparation for the dredge. With the spoil site no longer necessary, former Waterways Commission staff, Ann Daisey, raised concerns about the rate of erosion around the spoil site. The board consequently approved a motion to recommend to the Dare County Commissioners to budget $11,000 of the money that was originally allocated for the dredge to erosion management at the spoil site. This will probably involve the placement of a fence around the site.
The Corps also announced that Oregon Inlet is looking clear for the Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament going on this week. Pirate’s Cove is one of the biggest fishing tournaments on the East Coast, and 32 boats are participating this year. This event brings in a lot of revenue for the county and the tournament contributes grant money every year to Dare County charities.
The NCDOT announced that contractors are scheduled to start work on South Dock in September, located at the ferry terminal on the north end of Ocracoke, to install a sheet pile to prevent further erosion at the site. Contractors are permitted to work until December. The NCDOT has requested that until contractors can get sheeting in place, scheduled to be in by October 1, boats slow down in that area to mitigate the wake and to preserve the dunes as much as possible. Because the U.S. Coast Guard is not responsible for creating No Wake Zones and the NCDOT has not made any plans to make the announcement to the public, Coulter plans to notify the ferries.
“Why not just make an announcement over the radio? Or better yet, just let the marinas know. It’s that simple,” Foster suggested.
Commission members Natalie Kavanaugh, Michael Flynn, Danny Couch, Vice-Chairman Ernie Foster, and Chairman Steve Coulter were in attendance. Representatives from various interested parties were also in attendance including the Army Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard, and the NCDOT Ferry Division.
The Waterways Commission will next meet in room 168 of the Dare County Administration Building in Manteo on Monday, September 9 at 7 p.m.