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Update Miss Katie Dredge & Federal Realignment Project Presented at Waterways Commission Meeting

Miss Katie at her current home in Louisiana. Photo courtesy of Commissioner Steve House.

Posted on July 15, 2022

There was a steady stream of good news at the July 11 Dare County Waterways Commission meeting, with updates on the proposed federal realignment of the Hatteras Ferry Channel/Rollinson Channel, as well the Dare County-managed Miss Katie dredge.

Chairman Steve “Creature” Coulter started the meeting by noting that the channels through Hatteras Inlet have remained navigable and open for the past few weeks – a welcome piece of news considering that there were navigation challenges for the first few months of 2022.

“We made it through the tournaments last week with no incidents,” said Coulter. “And everybody seemed to have high praise for the Coast Guard and the buoys that are in place, as far as helping people navigate through a few [difficult] places.”

“The connector channel is holding up,” he added. “There are a few spots there where it is starting to shallow a little bit – on the west end where we’re getting into the connector, that seems to be creeping back a little bit – but I think as long as we keep enough traffic going through there, that’s going to stay open.”

“I hate to say I don’t see a problem, because there’s always a problem… But I don’t see an immediate problem right now.”

The commission also received an update on the status of the long-anticipated realignment of the Rollinson Channel. Much of mariners’ frustration in recent years has been directed at the fragmented regulatory status of Hatteras Inlet’s passages – some federal, some state, some neither, some both.

The Corps is proposing to add language that will expand the area included in the existing federal authorization for Rollinson Channel, a long-sought revision that, until last year, was believed to be possible only through an act of Congress.

“Basically, it will be expanding the area we can dredge, in the aspect that it would make the entire horseshoe route federal,” said Coulter in an earlier interview.

The side caster dredge Merritt works in the Hatteras Inlet in July 2021. Photo by Donna Barnett

Another benefit of the realignment would be that federal funds would be available for future dredging projects, as the entire channel would be under federal authority and would no longer be a “no man’s land” with no entity – federal or state government – taking responsibility for dredging events.

The 132-page Environmental Assessment was first introduced in the fall of 2021, and despite some revisions along the way, (and the required approval from multiple agencies), Jeremy Smith, Navigation Branch Chief for the US Army Corps of Engineers, stated that the realignment should be finalized by the first half of October 2022.

The US Army Corps of Engineers also stated that, after meeting with the Ferry Division, the dredge Merritt would be returning to Hatteras Inlet in a couple of weeks, (after completing a project in Carolina Beach, N.C.), to conduct some maintenance dredging in the Hatteras ferry channel.

Emergency authorization was also discussed for Oregon Inlet, in order to clear an alternative route that was established after significant shoaling occurred in the spring and early summer. “We are most likely going to have an emergency declaration issued in the coming weeks to dredge the alternate route, provided the South Atlantic Division Commander concurs with that [plan],” said Smith. “We won’t know for sure for probably another two weeks, but that is where we’re headed.”

During the public comment period of the meeting, Woody Joyner, President of North Carolina Watermen United, also asked for updates on the Miss Katie dredge.

“What will be the determining factors as to when to Miss Katie will be working on or around Hatteras Inlet?” asked Joyner. “It appears many residents are anxious to know how the new dredge will help, and when.”

The construction and acquisition of the Miss Katie dredge is a county-launched project that has been in the works since 2016.

In 2019, the Dare County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a contract for the construction and operation of a new shallow-draft hopper dredge for use in the various channels and inlets throughout the county. The vessel will be able to operate in both Oregon and Hatteras Inlets up to 12 hours a day, and will be a county-managed resource to continually keep both inlets open.

“The dredge will be operated by private individuals, but the Oregon Inlet Task Force is going to be in charge of where it goes, and when it goes,” said Coulter. “I have been assured by several of the county commissioners that when we need it in Hatteras, it will be available to us. As far as a formal plan or procedure for getting it, I don’t have one and I have not been presented with one yet, but I have been assured that we will get it when we need it.”

“The Oregon Inlet Task Force has reached out to come speak to us, and to be more actively engaged in the Waterways [Commission] meetings,” added Commissioner Danny Couch. “In my opinion, we should take advantage of that, and I think that would be the opportunity to [direct] them on what the schedule should be for Hatteras Inlet, because we are a significant and economic contributor to Dare County’s welfare.”

“Let’s plan a meeting where we can have some significant input from the Oregon Inlet Task Force on Miss Katie’s interaction with Hatteras Inlet,” added Couch.

The Miss Katie is currently stationed in Louisiana, and is in the final stages of being built, with sea trials scheduled to begin on July 18.

Once the Louisiana-based sea trials are complete, the Miss Katie will make her way to the Outer Banks – roughly a two-week trek – and will likely be up and running, and hopefully able to dredge in Dare County by mid-August.

The next Dare County Waterways Commission meeting is scheduled for August 8 at 7:00 p.m. More information, including the minutes from previous meetings, can be found online at


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