Hatteras Inlet still clogged, dredging efforts hampered by tides

Published 7:55 am Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Hatteras Inlet remains clogged.

The charter fishing fleet cannot get to the ocean bar.

At the Dare County Waterways Commission, the report from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about dredging in the South Ferry Channel left silence.

“I’m stunned,” said commission member Ernie Foster.

“I’m speechless right now,” said Steve Coulter, chairman of the commission.

“We have to do something,” said Dan Oden, commission member. “We’ve just got to find a way.”

Joen Petersen, representing the Corps of Engineers, reported that in four days of work, the sidecaster Merritt was just getting to the shoal in the South Ferry Channel. Exceptionally low tides have hampered dredging, though higher tides over the weekend hold promise.

Petersen commented that no other options existed, unless Mother Nature created a new channel or opening. The Merritt spent some time looking for an opening.

Petersen said the Corps was looking to Dare County. The Corps is willing to stay. Petersen suggested continuing with the Merritt until Monday, March 15, which would account for 11 of the 28 days that Dare County has paid for the Corps’ dredges to work the inlet.

The plan was to use the sidecaster to cut a channel through the shoal. Then the Murden, a hopper dredge, would move more sand out of the channel.

The trouble spot, the South Ferry Channel, is described as “no man’s.” The actual waterway is in Hyde County. It’s not a federal channel and thus draws no federal attention or money. The state’s pipeline dredge is going to the NCDOT’s shipyard in Manns Harbor for maintenance. The Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry route is not affected.

“Failure is not an option,” said Coulter, a charter boat captain. “We’re getting ready to go fishing.”

The United State Coast Guard’s Aids to Navigation Team has been busy resetting buoys for Ocracoke, Hatteras and Oregon Inlets. On Ocracoke, the team built a channel around the shoal and added navigation lights in a problem area in Big Foot Slough. In Oregon Inlet, the team reset a buoy on the west side of the bridge after dredging was completed and three new buoys were set around the Lois Joyce wreck. In Oregon Inlet, entrance buoys 1, 2, 3 and 4 will be shifted.

On Wednesday, March 10, the team will work on buoys in Sloop Channel.

Ken Willson, with Coastal Protection Engineering, was back with a final presentation to the commission on his dredge material work for Dare County. The final report contains eight recommendations.

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