Move Ocracoke ferry terminal, recommends subcommittee

Published 9:56 am Friday, December 17, 2021

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The subcommittee of the NC 12 Task Force spent its Dec. 8 meeting focused on Ocracoke Island.

Slammed most recently by 2019 Hurricane Dorian and a November 2021 northeaster, NC 12 still delivers food, building materials, mail and medicine to Ocracoke residents, visitors and businesses from the south ferry dock.

In September 2019, Hurricane Dorian breached the island and cut off access to the Hatteras Inlet ferry terminal. The North Carolina Ferry Division calls the facility “South Dock,” as it is on the south side of Hatteras Inlet.

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At the NC 12 subcommittee meeting, Win Bridgers, NCDOT’s deputy Division 1 engineer, said “something has to be planned at some point. South Dock is not long for this world.”

Dave Hallac, superintendent of National Parks of Eastern North Carolina, called South Dock “a completely unsustainable situation.” He predicted that Ocracoke was heading for a major crisis in 12 to 24 months.

A 2020 Addendum 1 to a previous NC 12 Ocracoke Island Hot Spot study delves into the relocation of the South Dock.

The study closely examined Alternative 7 which would move the ferry terminal six miles north of Ocracoke Village or one mile south of the Ocracoke Pony Pens.

The written study presents two alternatives with the same idea but different lengths.

In option A, the ferry ramp would extend 9,000 feet into the Pamlico Sound past the reef, eliminating the need for dredging; option B would extend 5,000 feet and require channel dredging.

Option A was estimated to cost $87,200,000; option B, $52,700,000.

The subcommittee concluded that Alternative 7 with the terminal location to be determined was the alternative to recommend.

In order to maintain day trip numbers, the subcommittee supported supplementing the vehicle ferries with additional public or private passenger ferries.

In the short term, to maintain NC 12, beach nourishment is recommended.

A source of sand may be delivered from Hatteras Inlet dredging.

Some concern was expressed about losing access to the north end of Ocracoke Island.

In a follow-up conversation, Hallac said he would be “happy to evaluate transportation options to the north end of the island.”

The next meetings of the subcommittee are Jan. 13, 2022 at 2 p.m. to establish priorities and Feb. 17 at 11 a.m. to review a draft report to be sent to the NC 12 Task Force.