North Carolina’s Hatteras Inlet dredging works get additional county funding

The US Army Corps of Engineers' dredger Merritt (Photo: USACE)

The Dare County Board of Commissioners (BOC) of North Carolina has approved a request to provide the additional funding needed to keep the US Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) dredger Merritt working in Hatteras Inlet long enough to break through shoaling in the South Ferry Channel to provide local commercial fishermen with a fully open and navigable waterway.

The USACE began a 28-day dredging project within Hatteras Inlet earlier this month in an attempt to break through the shoal that has formed in the South Ferry Channel and rendered the waterway impassable to the vast majority of vessels.

The initial plan for the Hatteras Inlet project called for the USACE’s sidecaster dredger Merritt to cut through the sandbar and, once the channel was deep and wide enough, for Murden, a shallow-draught hopper dredger, to complete the project by removing the remaining sand from the channel.

However, after four days of dredging, Merritt had only reached the sandbar that had sealed off the channel, and more time would be required to break through the shoaling so that Murden could be brought in.

At a project update given during the Dare County Waterways Commission meeting earlier this month, USACE representative Joen Petersen announced that, despite the USACE’s efforts, considerably less progress than anticipated had been made to break through the sandbar due in part to the exceptionally low tides that had occurred during the dredging period.

With Merritt‘s allotted time in the waterway limited and options for alternatives running out, the Waterways Commission sought assistance from the Dare County Board of Commissioners in securing the funds necessary to allow the dredger more time to tackle the shoaling issues taking place in the South Ferry Channel.

The board approved the request for funding, making US$60,000 available for the project. That contribution, which will be cost-shared with a grant from North Carolina’s Shallow-Draft Channel Navigation and Aquatic Weed Fund, sent a total of US$240,000 to the USACE to pay for 12 additional days of desperately needed dredging.

The board’s approval of the funding necessary for the dredger to continue working in Hatteras Inlet for an additional 12 days is crucial for the commercial and recreational fishermen whose vessels’ ability to navigate through the channel has been prevented or hindered significantly by the shoaling.

Dredging of the South Ferry Channel in Hatteras Inlet is expected to be completed the week of April 19, 2021.

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