Ports a Step Closer to Year-Round Dredging

A cargo ship departs the North Carolina Port of Wilmington. Photo: State Ports Authority

Posted on March 4, 2021

The Army Corps of Engineers has published its final environmental review required for the elimination of the environmental window for dredging the harbors at the state’s two seaports.

The Corps’ Wilmington District published Thursday the final environmental assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact, or FONSI, which details what will take place to eliminate the historic hopper dredging window from Dec. 1 to April 15 and adds the bed-leveling technique for maintenance of the outer portions of the Wilmington and Morehead City harbors.

The draft environmental assessment was provided to federal and state agencies and the public Aug. 19, 2020. The FONSI discusses and responds to comments received during the 45-day review of that draft.

The elimination of the environmental window is initially limited to a three-year period with monitoring efforts planned by the Corps and state and federal agencies.

“It is important to note that this is not a static three-year period,” said Wilmington District Commander Col. Benjamin Bennett. “During the three-year period, adjustments will be made based on working groups with state and federal agencies.  The idea of a three-year period was developed in collaboration with our partners including the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management and the National Marine Fisheries Service.”

A risk-based management approach is to be used for future maintenance, which is to improve navigability and safety for commercial vessels calling on the ports while also protecting resources of concern, according to the Corps. Because of the dynamic nature of coastal environments, the evaluation of environmental windows on a regular basis allows for adjustments to protect the most at-risk resources, the Corps said


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