Shallow inlet affects shrimpers, military

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Posted July 22, 2015

Shrimp boat captain Billy Davis says when he started in this trade, Sneads Ferry was a happening place for commercial fishermen, and the New River Inlet was always dredged out as needed

"Our shallow draft inlets have always needed to be dredged out," Davis says. "Years ago, we didn't have a problem getting funding."

This year, the New River Inlet has gotten so shallow that many boats can only get through during high tide, and even then, they risk running aground.

"It means we have to leave home; we can't bring our product in here," Davis says. "My brother has the fish house here, and it hurts him. It hurts every body, even the businesses around here."

The shallow water is not only keeping shrimp fishermen from doing their job, it's affecting the readiness of the military who use the New River Inlet as a secondary means to transport equipment and personnel.

"Ideally what we would need is a 10 foot draft and 70 foot width of dredging to make that a viable capability for landing craft utility boats to make effective deliveries from Mile Hammock Bay to amphibious shipping," says Nat Fahy, the Public Relations Director at Camp Lejeune.

The Marine Corps has requested the Army Corps of Engineers complete the dredging, and shrimpers have made this request as well.

State and local funds have been set aside for the dredging and beach nourishment, pumping the sand from the inlet onto the beaches. It's a win-win for the town of North Topsail Beach, Onslow County and for commercial fisherman. However, the federal government needs to approve the permits and dredging plans. Getting the project approved could take months.

Davis says if the inlet is not dredged before the end of the summer, the situation will worsen by the fall, which is a crucial time of year for shrimp boats.

"We are hard working people, and we don't ask for a whole lot," Davis says. "We just ask for a fair shake. We want to be able to work and feed our families."