Bulkhead Channel dredging scheduled for early October

Colored areas on this map mark Bulkhead Channel, with areas where shoaling has made the channel shallow in green, yellow, orange and red. (Town of Beaufort graphic)

Posted on September 14, 2021

BEAUFORT — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is scheduled to dredge the navigation lane in Bulkhead Channel in early October.

The Beaufort Harbor and Waterways Committee met Thursday morning online via Zoom for its regular meeting. During the meeting, ACE Wilmington District Capt. Todd Horton said town officials can expect to see dredging of a problem area in the channel by Wednesday, Oct. 6.

Committee member Doug Townsend said during Thursday’s meeting there were considerable comments made at the Aug. 19 committee meeting on dredging.

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“Dredging is no small undertaking,” Mr. Townsend said. “The more pertinent issue to us has been Bulkhead Channel; it’s almost closed in.”

Mr. Townsend said a shoaling peninsula has developed on the southern end of the channel, which runs between Town Marsh and Radio Island. In November 2020, the ACE dredged about 150 feet of sand from the peninsula, but the shoaling returned by May.

Capt. Horton said Bulkhead Channel has “historically been an issue” when it comes to dredging.

“We know how quickly that shoal fills in,” he said. “Because it’s a high shoaling area, we have a survey done every other month.”

Capt. Horton added the ACE Wilmington station has two dredges, but work has been slowed due to one of them being serviced. However, he also said to maintain Bulkhead Channel, dredging once every six months is “optimal.”

“With the dredge available and the funds to do so, we should be able to dredge this two times a year,” Mr. Townsend said.

Committee member Bucky Oliver asked if pursuing a jetty to prevent shoaling entirely was an option.

Capt. Horton said while it could be considered by town officials, “it’s more a state issue,” and regular dredging might be a more cost-effective solution, since a jetty isn’t guaranteed to prevent shoaling.

“We haven’t done any bathometric studies of the area to determine the flows (of water),” he said.

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 Bulkhead Channel has been dredged multiple times from 2011 to 2020. According to Mr. Townsend, in that time, $1,944,601 has been spent on dredging the channel, most of which, $1,060,576, came from N.C. General Assembly appropriations. Beaufort officials have provided $643,250 in funding, the county board of commissioners has provided $126,775 and federal funding sources have provided $114,000.

After receiving Capt. Horton’s input, the committee unanimously declared Bulkhead Channel dredging a critical priority for the committee with seven votes in favor and one abstention, due to member Miriam Sutton being absent.

The committee also voted with seven in favor and Ms. Sutton’s abstention to declare dredging Taylor Creek as a secondary priority and to support collaboration with the county to dredge the areas outside the Beaufort town limits.

In other news at the Thursday meeting, the committee approved creating five sub-committees to address five focus areas assigned by the town board of commissioners. These focus areas are as follows:

·     Dredging.

·     Completing a Harbor and Waterways Preliminary Master Plan.

·     Condition assessment of the Beaufort bulkhead and boardwalk.

·     Creating a construction plan to repair or replace the bulkhead and boardwalk.

·     Developing a preliminary 10-year financial pro forma and market test.

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