Hatteras Inlet channel shuts down ferries; dredge shifted

Published 3:07 pm Saturday, April 16, 2022

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At 11:30 a.m. on Friday, April 15, one North Carolina ferry – the Chicamacomico – made it to Ocracoke. Another one was grounded. Ferry travel on the Hatteras-Ocracoke route was suspended due to low water and high northeast winds.

The troubled route was initially suspended around 7 a.m. Friday.

In announcing the spring schedule for the route, the ferry division said “while the number of departures will be increased, critical shoaling issues in Sloop Channel outside the Ocracoke ferry terminal have limited the size of ferries that can safely operate on the route. This has reduced the number of vehicles that can be carried on each departure and led to longer-than-usual wait times.”

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The release also said, “the Ferry Division is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to have the area dredged as soon as possible.”

The “as-soon-as-possible” became clear on Monday night, April 11 at the Dare County Waterways Commission meeting.

Jeremy Smith, reporting for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, told the commission that the dredge currently working to make a passage to the ocean would be pulled on Thursday, April 14 and head for Sloop Channel.

“Right now, Sloop is the priority,” said Smith. The dredge will be at that location for “at least a week, five or six days of dredging.”

Until the first week in April, the Hatteras village charter fleet and some commercial vessels had been shut down for ocean fishing. The shutdown lasted for three months because the South Ferry Channel was clogged.

Finally, another route, which is called the Connecting Channel, was worked.

Charter boat captains can now snake through Sloop Channel and make way through the almost finished Connecting Channel to the open ocean, as long as the winds are favorable.

The dredging job is not complete. A half day of dredging would knock down a bump in the channel, but the area is not included in a permit.

Later in the meeting after no representative appeared for the North Carolina Ferry Division, K.P. Scott, a commission member, mused “hope it’s not intentional.”

For three years, the commission has been working on a realignment of Hatteras Inlet channels.

The commission had thought the alignment route was finished. However, another area needs to be added, so a delay is in place.

About the delay, commission member Natalie Kavanagh calmly said, “get it done right the first time.”

The Dare County Waterways Commission meets the second Monday night of the month. The next morning, the Oregon Inlet Task Force meets.

NCDOT reported work to remove pilings may be finished; that barges are inside the bridge; and in two to three weeks, silt fence will be out.

The United States Coast Guard said that adjustments will be made in buoy placement: buoy No. 10 will be aligned with No. 12; and west of the bridge buoy No. 21 will be moved out and buoy No. 17 will move up a little.

Ken Willson reported all permits were in place for the next four to six months.

Dock space has been arranged for the dredge Miss Katie at the Wanchese Marine Industrial Park and at the Oregon Inlet Marina. A survey boat has been purchased for use with the dredging operation.