The Hatteras Ferry Channel realignment has been approved on the federal level and maintenance dredging of the horseshoe-shaped route is expected to begin this week.
Army Corps of Engineers Wilmington District announced Wednesday that the Hatteras to Hatteras Inlet, or Rollinson Channel, navigation project is officially the new route and the original location will no longer be maintained.
The environmental analysis for the project, signed Nov. 30, determined a new route would be a more efficient path in regards to improved navigational safety and reliability for the channel. The analysis also found that “it is in the federal interest” to implement the proposed alternative allowing dredging in Sloop Channel North and Hatteras Connector Channel without seasonal restrictions.
The dredging scheduled to begin Thursday is required to maintain safe and reliable navigability for North Carolina Department of Transportation ferry services, the US Coast Guard, and both commercial and recreational fishing vessels.
“This plan will reduce concerns related to ferry delays during peak tourist season and will provide safe access to offshore fishing areas for those who rely on ocean access for their livelihood. Realignment will increase dredging efficiency, improve navigability and safety, while also reducing costs to taxpayers for maintenance of these important shallow draft channels,” Corps officials said.
The Corps committed to aerial monitoring of submerged aquatic vegetation within the project area before and after each dredging event and maintain a buffer.
Because of the current alignment of the Rollinson, or Hatteras Ferry, Channel, the Corps can only dredge the southern tip of Hatteras Island using federal funding. State and local funds must be used to dredge the South Ferry Channel in order to successfully get boats to Hatteras Gorge and out into the Atlantic Ocean, according to Dare County documents.
The section of waterway “has been the source of considerable frustration for several years as everyone from commercial and recreational fishermen to members of the U.S. Coast Guard who are trying to perform life-saving missions have struggled to get through the inlet and into the open ocean,” the county said. “Dare County fully supports the realignment of the Rollinson Channel in order to make it possible for federal dollars and federal dredges to be tasked with tackling shoaling in the entire waterway, which would have an enormous and positive impact on area watermen and the community as a whole.”