Dare commissioners take action for Oregon Inlet, watermen

Published 5:05 pm Sunday, October 30, 2022

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In addition to hearing a presentation about its commissioned salary study, the Dare County Board of Commissioners took action on two marine matters Oct. 27, 2022.

Commissioner Jim Tobin presented a resolution regarding the need for “emergency authorization to allow for continued dredging of the entire alternate channel” on the west side of the Oregon Inlet bridge.

Tobin told the commissioners that the U.S Army Corps of Engineers had performed 11 vibracore samples in the alternate channel. One of those samples came back with less than 90% sand.

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Tobin reported that the sample showed 50% silt and 50% sand. The concern said Tobin is the turbidity of water in the dump area.

The Corps told Dare County “that due to the content of the sample, dredging cannot be performed in a section of the alternate channel which has a controlling depth of 5 feet and a width of 40 feet …” The directive stopped the Miss Katie from dredging.

The unanimously passed resolution was sent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Commissioner Steve House asked for action opposing a proposed National Marine Fisheries Service change to the north Atlantic right whale vessel speed regulations.

The proposal would reduce speed limits for vessels in the 35-to-64 foot range. Vessel collisions and gear entanglement are leading threats to right whale decline, states the National Marine Fisheries Service. The latest preliminary estimate suggests there are fewer than 350 right whales remaining, reports National Marine Fisheries.

The proposal would label North Carolina waters out 20 nautical miles as a seasonal speed zone from Nov. 1 through April 30.

Speed requirements are already in place for vessels over 64 feet in length. The proposal is for vessels within the 34-to-64 foot range to reduce speed to 10 knots in the designated speed zone.

The county’s letter argues that no North Carolina vessel in the 35-to-64 foot range has been involved in a right whale strike since studies started in 2008.

Dare County agrees with a compromise offered by North Carolina Watermen United to lessen the economic damage of tripling the time to get to offshore fishing areas. “This speed limit should only be imposed at night with vessels being allowed to maintain their normal speeds during daylight hours when visual sightings greatly reduce any chance of a possible interaction with the right whale.”