Island Free Press: Weather interrupts dredging efforts in Outer Banks waterways

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Dredge Murden. [file photo]

By: Sarah Rich, IslandFreePress.org
The Dare County Waterways Commission, accompanied by representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the N.C. Department of Transportation, met in the Fessenden Center Annex in Buxton on Monday night to discuss recent developments in dredging projects throughout the county.

Unfortunately, these entities have all have faced obstacles of late due to varying weather patterns.

On the lookout for several channel markers from both Hatteras and Oregon Inlet, the Coast Guard reported that they are in the process of adding two new lighted buoys to Sloop Channel between numbers 2 & 4, an issue which commissioner member Ernie Foster mentioned at the panel’s previous public meeting.

The Coast Guard has also submitted paperwork to make the number 4 buoy lighted. Although unsure of the results yet, they hope to be able to give an update of this new project’s progress before the next Dare County Waterways meeting in March.

Surveys from the Army Corps of Engineers revealed the encroachment of previously dredged material in the South Ferry Channel.

In fact, the most recent survey conducted on Monday, February 10 at around 10 a.m., showed that the recent southwest winds have minimized the depth of water to just two feet on the outer edges of the channel and five feet in the middle of the channel since last week.

While the commission is hoping that the NCDOT will perform another survey of this area soon to see if the channel is filling out in places just north of where the Corps surveyed, they made plans to wait only a few days before contracting the Corps to do the additional survey.

“We can wait to spend the taxpayer dollar until we know whether or not the [NCDOT] is going to dredge,” Waterways Commission chairman Steve Coulter suggested.

The Corps assured commissioners that they would be nearby if need be. Even with the availability of the Corps and their dredges, the board raised concerns that impending weather conditions, namely another strong southwest gale, will not allow another survey to be done in the South Ferry Channel.

Commission member Natalie Kavanaugh also questioned if the county had money in its budget to run another survey. Thankfully, it looks like both the funds and the manpower will be available if necessary.

The President’s 2021 budget proposal, recently published online, allocates a modest portion of funding to Rollinson Channel, Shallowbag Bay, and Silver Lake Harbor. Indeed, according to one Corps representative, Dare County’s waterways made out better than most other shallow draft projects in the nation.

Though the budget has been published, it must be approved by Congress in order to be finalized.

At South Dock, work continues to repair the area despite frequent setbacks due to weather interruptions. The contractor at work there has gotten 10% of the ties installed and hopes to finish the sheeting this week.

Initially, the contractor planned to finish the work at South Dock by March of this year, but after missing 25 percent of the allotted workdays so far, has made arrangements to stay through the spring to complete the work.

Representatives from the NCDOT said that they will want to make another public comment to marinas soon asking for help from boaters to avoid disturbances to that area.

The Dare County Waterways Commission will meet again on Monday, March 9, at 7 p.m. at the Dare County Administration Building in Manteo.

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