The long-awaited Miss Katie, a shallow-draft hopper dredge built to address the significant shoaling in Dare County waterways, arrived last week.
The dredge, which has been under construction since March 2021 in Morgan City, Louisiana, headed to the North Carolina coast from Conrad Shipyard the morning of Aug.13 and arrived Friday afternoon in Wanchese, the dredge’s homeport.
The dredge was funded through a public-private partnership. The legislature allocated $15 million from the Shallow Draft Navigation Channel Dredging and Aquatic Weed Fund for the purchase of the dredge, according to the county.
Dare County elected officials, the Oregon Inlet Task Force, partners and EJE Dredging Service, the private partner that owns and operates the 156-foot-long dredge, held a joint press conference Friday to welcome the dredge, which can viewed on YouTube.
“I think all of us know what an important and pivotal moment this is to Dare County and especially for our commercial recreational fishermen who rely upon accessibility through our waterways in the area in order to make a living and provide for their families,” Dare County Board of Commissioners Chairman Bob Woodard told the crowd.
He went on to say that commercial fishing had been a way of life in Dare County for centuries and that the county commissioners recognize the importance of the industry on the Outer Banks. The board unanimously approved in May 2019 a contract for the construction and operation of a new shallow draft hopper dredge that could be used to address the significant shoaling that occurs in various channels and inland throughout Dare county.
“The completion of Miss Katie and her long-awaited arrival here on the Outer Banks is a historic moment. And it will be a game changer for Dare County and our water,” Woodard said. “This is historic, folks. This is unprecedented. This is the first in the United States of America of a situation like this with a public-private partnership.”
Jim Tobin, Oregon Inlet Task Force Chairman and Dare County commissioner, said it had been “a long and arduous process, and I’m happy to declare that today it is complete its official.”
Sen. Norm Sanderson was on hand. He extended his congratulations to my congratulations to Dare County. “This is a great opportunity for all of eastern North Carolina.”
Jordan Hennessy, vice president of EJE Dredging Service, added that it was a special day for the Outer Banks and the communities of Wanchese and Hatteras.
Hennessy told the crowd that the dredge is 156 feet long and 35 feet wide, with 1,500 horsepower and a 512-cubic-yard hopper. The hopper is about the size of 50 dump truckloads of sand that can be filled in about 30 minutes.
The dredge’s draft is 4 feet, 3 inches and 570 tons when light-loaded. When loaded, its draft is about 8 feet and the dredge weights more than 1,000 tons.
Hennessy said he expected the U.S. Coast Guard to complete the necessary inspection soon. Once approved, the dredge can be scheduled to commence operations to address the ongoing issues caused by shoaling.
The Oregon Inlet Task Force, which advises county commissioners on Oregon Inlet and the channel that runs north to Wanchese Harbor, will manage the Miss Katie. Task force members will be responsible for scheduling, planning and monitoring the success of the dredging efforts.
EJE Dredging Service will host a ribbon-cutting and christening ceremony in partnership with Dare County to formally celebrate the completion of the project later this year, county officials said.