Posted on February 15, 2023
With the Miss Katie successfully completing a 10-day dredging event for Hatteras Inlet’s Connector Channel, the Dare County Waterways Commission focused on proactive steps to keep the Connector Channel and the other channels that link to Hatteras Inlet open for the long term at their monthly meeting on Monday, February 13.
“The Dare County Task Force and EJE [Dredging Service] got the dredge down here, like they said they would, and from everything I’ve heard from boats going in and out of the Connector Channel, they did an excellent job,” said Chairman Steve “Creature” Coulter at the beginning of the meeting. “I’ve also talked with several of the marinas, who are expressing their gratitude that we are getting this done early before the season gets rolling.”
“We took the first step in getting the Miss Katie down here, and hopefully we’ll get two or three more steps [accomplished] in the future to keep working on making Dare County a place where everyone can come and bring their boats, and travel in and out of the inlet safely.”
The 156-foot dredge, christened on October 13 at a ceremony in Wanchese, had already been working in Oregon Inlet since the fall of 2022, but the late January dredging event was the first time that she tackled the channels of Hatteras Inlet.
Per EJE Vice-President/Managing Partner Jordan Hennessy, Miss Katie had 10 productive days of dredging, with roughly 14,000 cubic yards of material removed and dumped off the Ocracoke nearshore disposal site.
The Oregon Inlet Task Force has been charged by Dare County to manage the dredge, including its operation schedule and project monitoring, and as a proactive measure, the Dare County Waterways Commission voted to request a second visit from Miss Katie by the end of March. (Special permission is needed for every dredging event outside of the permitted dredging window of October 1 through March 31, hence the rush to have Miss Katie return before the window closes for the season.)
“We definitely want to make a motion to have the Miss Katie back here before the moratorium starts,” said Coulter. “But it’s kind of hard to say that we’d like for them to concentrate on one area or another without a new survey.”
The US Corps of Engineers expects to have new surveys available in the next couple of weeks, so a motion was passed by the Commission to request that the Miss Katie returns to Hatteras in mid-March, (before the moratorium closes), to do a dredging event in need-based areas, which will be determined closer to the dredging date.
The most recent 10-day dredging event cost $220,000, leaving $580,000 in remaining funds for future Miss Katie-related dredging in Hatteras Inlet’s channels, so the cost of a March maintenance event was not an immediate concern.
A potential return of Miss Katie is not the only dredging event on the horizon, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Joen Petersen said that the Corps would be sending the sidecaster dredge Merritt to Hatteras Inlet early next week.
“What we’re trying to do right now is get the Merritt up there working in the Sloop [Channel] area while we’re also working more on the Hatteras side, around the 15 to 17 area, as the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferries are getting a little congested over there,” said Petersen. “The good thing about this [dredging event] is we’re also trying to coordinate with the [hopper dredge] Murden to immediately follow up on the Merritt, and that’s predominantly to work around the 15 to 17 area where you have that real sharp bend.”
The Hatteras area and Sloop Channel were both identified as troublesome spots in a recent meeting between the Corps and the NCDOT Ferry Division.
“We had a meeting with the ferry service last week, and one of the challenges we have with the Murden working on the Hatteras side is just the ferry schedule itself,” said Petersen. “So they are willing to alternate their schedule or possibly change it so we can get the Murden in there.”
The Merritt and Murden dredging events are expected to last at least 10 days, depending on the weather.
“We’re very thankful that they’re coming down with the sidecaster dredge as well as the Murden,” said Catherine Peele, Planning and Development Manager for the NCDOT Ferry Division. “It’s extremely tight in both those areas, so we’re going to continue on with a discussion on how to improve both sides of the channel.”
“We’re hoping that we’ll get these channels in good condition for the summertime season, so we’ll be able to run a reliable ferry schedule,” added Peele.
In recent news outside the inlet, Grants and Waterways Administrator Barton Grover said that the first step towards an Avon Harbor dredging project, which is conducting Vibracore sampling to ensure that dredged material can be used for a soundside beach nourishment project, is scheduled for mid-March.
The US Army Corps of Engineers has allocated $1.6 million in funds for the dredging of Avon Harbor and the adjacent channel, but unlike the Corps’ other dredging projects, (such as in Oregon or Hatteras Inlets), there is not a clear disposal site for dredge material in the immediate Avon village area.
As a result, Dare County and other government agencies, (including the NCDOT and the National Park Service), have formulated a plan to transport the dredged material from Avon Harbor to the nearby soundside beaches between Avon and Buxton.
“Obviously, this material will be placed on a beach that is used by the public, so we need to make sure there are [no issues], like heavy metals, and petroleum. That is the first hurdle,” said Grover in an earlier interview. “If the Vibracore sampling comes out bad, we’ll have to reassess this project.”
The Commission also touched on the emergency ferry route from Rodanthe to Stumpy Point. “We are still talking with the Corps about that project, and we’re still talking with the DOT to see if they are going to fund the emergency ferry channel dredging, and we have not heard confirmation on that,” said Grover.
Commissioners Steve “Creature” Coulter, Danny Couch, KP Scott, Natalie Kavanagh, and Ernie Foster attended the Feb. 13 meeting in Buxton.
The next Dare County Waterways Commission meeting is scheduled for March 13 at the Dare County Administration Building in Manteo.