Carteret County will partner with Hyde County to dredge the channel just outside of Ocracoke’s Silver Lake Harbor that’s used by the ferries from the mainland terminals on Cedar Island and Swan Quarter, Hyde County officials announced Thursday.
The North Carolina Ferry Division announced in July that it was temporarily reducing service on Pamlico Sound between Cedar Island, Swan Quarter and Ocracoke because of critical shoaling issues in the ferry channel. Cedar Island is in eastern Carteret County.
The Army Corps of Engineers’ most recent survey at the time showed depths in the federally authorized Bigfoot Slough as shallow as 8 feet, too shallow for the two largest sound-class vessels, the M/V Swan Quarter and the M/V Sea Level, to travel the area safely. Ferry service was reduced to one boat per day leaving each port of departure this summer.
Hyde County and the Ferry Division lack funding for match requirements for the Corps or others to dredge the channel. Because of the urgency and funding limitations, the division and Hyde County officials approached Carteret County to provide this match on behalf of Hyde County.
Officials said the dredging is necessary not only to preserve the flow of traffic along N.C. 12, but also to preserve jobs. Also, the hurricane evacuation routes are critical to public safety.
“We are thankful that Carteret County has stepped up to help in a time when we simply don’t have the funding for this project. Our ferries are lifelines to those living in and visiting Ocracoke Island, which is still struggling to rebuild after the devastation of Dorian,” Chairman of the Hyde County Board of Commissioners, Earl Pugh Jr. said in a statement. “We look forward to working with Carteret County and other partners in the future to ensure state and federal funding is made available to keep our channels maintained and to avoid this type of reduction of service again. This is a true example of neighbors helping neighbors for the common good.”
Hyde County said it will use the money to apply for and obtain the North Carolina Shallow Draft Navigation funding to complete the dredging and will serve as the local government sponsor to facilitate the project. Hyde County will also support Carteret County’s efforts in seeking reimbursement of the local match from the state.
“Carteret County depends daily on the frequency and access of the State Ferry system. Many of our employers depend on people and supplies to be ferried between these various points every day. It is now more critical than ever to keep our ferry routes open and navigable,” said Bill Smith, chairman of the Carteret County Board of Commissioners.
“Time is of the essence and Carteret County expects in the future for the Federal and State partners to sufficiently plan and pay for emergencies such as this. Carteret County has always enjoyed great partnerships with all of our neighboring counties, and this project and many others exemplify the commitment Carteret has steadfastly made to help our neighbors in need. This project is simply about doing the right thing and that’s why Carteret made the choice to help out,” Smith said.