County commissioners want state of emergency for Oregon Inlet

Published 8:46 am Saturday, December 26, 2020

Dare County commissioners want a state of emergency declared for Oregon Inlet.

The resolution, presented at the end of the commissioners meeting Dec. 7, states “the Dare County Board of Commissioners formally requests that Oregon Inlet be declared to be in a state of emergency and that immediate actions be taken to provide continued and ongoing dredging by federal or private means as required to maintain full access by all commercial vessels.”

The resolution was presented by board Vice Chairman Wally Overman and was passed unanimously.

The resolution also asks that the U.S. Corps of Engineers suspend a bid requirement to allow for “timely contracting of any private dredge required when a Corps dredge in unavailable.”

Further, the resolution asks that the “antiquated Jones Act” be eliminated so the Corps can build additional dredges necessary” so assignments can be completed in federal and approved non-federal waters.

Overman reports that a state of emergency can be declared by the North Carolina governor and federal government.

The federal specification for the inlet is 14 feet deep and 400 feet wide. “This specification has rarely been achieved for extended periods over the last 20 years,” states the resolution.

Trawlers based out of Wanchese cannot transit the inlet and are diverted north to Virginia docks.  States the resolution, “literally millions of dollars of seafood are being taken to out-of-sate docks . . .”

At the Dec. 15, Oregon Inlet Task Force meeting, Roger Bullock, deputy chief operations-navigation for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said that the Oregon inlet’s South Channel was not holding and the shoal had migrated. The Corps will shift its work to the north channel in the inlet.

Of concern with the north channel is the Lois Joyce wreck. The 100-foot commercial fishing trawler wrecked December 1981 trying to enter Oregon Inlet during a storm. The U.S. Coast Guard is marking the area to “send vessels away from the wreck.” The Coast Guard has repositioned one buoy in the inlet and noted shoaling at buoys #55 and #8.

Two Corps dredges have been working in the inlet. One dredge will work until the end of year. The Currituck will return with the Merritt in February and March.

The under-construction dredge by Dare County is still on schedule for laying the keels in February 2021.

In December, Roger Bullock attended his last Waterways Commission and Oregon Inlet Task Force meetings as he is retiring. Chairman of the Oregon Inlet Task Force Jim Tobin said “it’s been an absolute pleasure to work with you.”

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