Dredging

Jockey's Ridge State Park
Dave DeWitt

Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head is North Carolina’s most famous giant pile of sand—and the tallest natural sand dune in the eastern United States.

But here’s a little secret: Even a remarkable all-natural phenomenon like Jockey’s Ridge needs a little man-made help.

An aerial picture of the Port of Wilmington
Wikipedia

The North Carolina State Ports Authority wants to study the feasibility of deeper water access at the Port of Wilmington. 

SPA officials say the request has gone out to the Army Corps of Engineers. 

Laura Blair works for the state ports authority.  She said there are economic reasons for the study.

“What we know now is that other states, our competition if you will, ports in South Carolina and Georgia even ports in Florida are either studying deepening their channels or are actively deepening their channels now.”

A picture of the Bonner Bridge over the Oregon Inlet.
Vbofficial / Wikipedia

A new bill introduced in the North Carolina Senate would allow the state to offer to buy or trade the federal government for the Oregon Inlet.

The Department of Interior took over ownership of the waterway in 1958. It charges the Army Corps of Engineers with dredging there -- being that it's an important access point for commercial fishermen and boat builders.

But state Representative Bill Cook said the feds rarely put up enough money to manage shoaling in the Oregon Inlet.

A picture of the Bonner Bridge over the Oregon Inlet.
Vbofficial / Wikipedia

Dredging has been suspended in the Oregon Inlet on the Outer Banks.

The Army Corps of Engineers says the water is too shallow to allow the dredge access to the main channel.  Raymond Pugh owns Fin-Nagle Fishing Charters in Nags Head.  He said his boat is small enough to get through, but larger commercial fishing boats are having trouble and that's hard on the local economy.

A picture of the Bonner Bridge over the Oregon Inlet.
Vbofficial / Wikipedia

Federal budget cuts are making it harder to keep a shipping channel open on the Outer Banks.  Fishermen use the channel to get in and out of Oregon Inlet under the Bonner Bridge. 

Bob Sattin is the Chief of Operations with the Wilmington District of the Army Corp of Engineers.  He said one dredge is working to clear the inlet, but paying for it is a problem.

NOAA

The Army Corps of Engineers is proposing changes to dredging rules in and around Beaufort Inlet on the Outer Banks. 

Right now, sand dredged to keep the inlet open is dumped on the shoreline of the town of Atlantic Beach and at Fort Macon State Park. 

Trace Cooper is the mayor of Atlantic Beach.  He says his town needs the sand to protect six-billion-dollars worth of investment.

A map of the channel depths shows how sand moved back into the original channel over the course of a month.
NCDOT / Facebook

The state DOT says Hatteras Inlet remains impassible in some areas as ferries prepare to switch to a busier summer schedule. 

A series of storms clogged the channel between Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands this winter, forcing crews to clear a longer detour.  A dredge has been clearing the original route, but officials say a boat bottomed out during a trial run last week.

"It's hard to say what's causing the changes there," says Jed Dixon, deputy director of the NC Ferry Division.

NCDOT

Ferry service between Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands could resume as early as this week with an alternate route.  The state Department of Transportation says surveyors have identified a longer channel that could allow ferries to pass.  Service has been spotty or suspended since Hurricane Sandy and two nor'easters made the normal route impassible during low tides.  DOT spokesman Steve Abbott says the agency hopes to reopen the route quickly to let traffic flow to an area that relies heavily on tourism from Spring to Fall.

Dredging crews are set to survey the Oregon Inlet again this morning after they suspended operations due to shallow waters. Officials with the U-S Army Corps of Engineers say strong winds brought more sand into the inlet last week. That prevents crews from using their side-casting dredge. Bob Sattin is the cheif operator for the Army Corps of Engineers in Wilmington: