Reprinted from Island Free Press
BUXTON — The Dare County Waterways Commission started to look ahead to possible late summer or early fall dredging of the South Ferry Channel in Hatteras Inlet during a brief June 11 meeting.
Commission members were grateful for the current navigable condition of Hatteras Inlet, but noted that maintenance dredging of the South Ferry Channel would be needed eventually after a summer of calm weather and southwest winds.
“This isn’t a 5K, it’s a marathon,” said member Dan Oden. “And come September, if it’s closed up again, we don’t want to be sitting on our hands.”
But the good news for members was that mariners were returning and were getting through the South Ferry Channel with relative ease.
“We’re seeing (visitors) return who haven’t been here in quite a while,” said Oden. “The Miss Hatteras is going in and out, and he’s one of the largest boats (in the area).
“However … it is showing signs of trying to shoal up, and we should start talking about maintenance dredging late this summer,” he added.
Waterways Commission member and Dare County Commissioner Danny Couch said he would reach out to the county after the meeting to request funds to conduct a survey of South Ferry Channel, which will start the process for getting special permission to dredge.
“It’s a good use of the funds, just so we can see what’s happening there,” said Couch. “We need the survey first to see what’s going on.”
Dredging the South Ferry Channel in Hatteras Inlet, also known as the Connecting Channel, is allowed from Oct. 1 through March 31.
But outside of this window, approval is required from the state Department of Environmental Quality, the Division of Coastal Management and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to receive permission to dredge outside the permitted season.
The county was granted multiple extensions by these state and federal agencies to dredge outside of the permitted timeframe in 2017, but it was noted at previous meetings that obtaining future extensions could be challenging.
In related news, the sidecaster dredge Merritt, which is currently in a shipyard in Memphis undergoing repairs, is expected to be back in the water and potentially available for Hatteras and Ocracoke islands in July, as needed. The hopper dredge Murden will also be in the area come mid to late July.
The Dare County Waterways Commission also revisited the conversation about the emergency ferry channel from Rodanthe to Stumpy Point, with member Ernie Foster noting that ensuring that the route was navigable was crucial in hurricane season.
“If we have to start using that channel for emergency services for all of Hatteras Island tomorrow, will we be OK?” said Foster. “Making sure it is usable is our responsibility.” It was noted that the process for addressing potential repairs and maintenance in the emergency ferry channel is currently in progress, though there is not yet a timeframe on when it will be complete.
Couch also noted at the meeting that Avon Harbor needed to be revisited as well.
“We need to see what condition it’s in,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of commercial fishermen there now, but historically, it was a commercial fishing (hub).” Couch said he would start the process by talking with local fishermen in the area, “to take a temperature reading of what’s happening there.”
Commission members Chairman Dave May, Couch, Oden, Foster and newly appointed member Natalie Kavanagh were in attendance at the June 11 meeting. Three seats on the Dare County Waterways Commission were also recently re-appointed for Couch, Foster and Fletcher Willey.
The next meeting of the Dare County Waterways Commission is set for 7 p.m. July 9 in Manteo.
This story is provided courtesy of the Island Free Press, a digital newspaper covering Hatteras and Ocracoke islands. Coastal Review Online is partnering with the Free Press to provide readers with more environmental and lifestyle stories of interest along our coast.