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Emergency Ferry Channel to be Dredged

Reprinted from Island Free Press

DARE COUNTY — After numerous obstacles and setbacks, the pieces are coming together for the emergency ferry channel between Rodanthe and Stumpy Point to be dredged during the first part of August.

The ferry channel provides emergency transportation in the event of N.C. 12 road closures north of Rodanthe, and is a lifeline for island residents in the wake of hurricanes and coastal storms.

At the July 15 meeting of the Dare County Board of Commissioners, County Manager Bobby Outten outlined the problems with the ferry channel, as well as the steps required to move forward with a scheduled dredging project.

Rodanthe emergency ferry terminal. Photo: File

“In the spring before every hurricane season, we get with the Ferry Division and say ‘run the channel and tell us what’s going on so we know that it’s open, and know that it will work,’” said Outten at the meeting. “They did that this spring, and found that it needed some dredging to get to proper depths so they could operate the ferries, should we have a storm that takes out the road later this year.”

He said they have been working with the state Department of Transportation and Army Corps of Engineers “since spring to make it happen, and frankly, we’ve run into problem after problem after problem.”

A survey conducted this spring found depths in some sections of channel as shallow as 4 to 6 feet. The ferries, which draw 5.5 feet, need a minimum of 6 feet of water.

Since the spring, there have been three primary obstacles that have prevented the dredging project from moving forward.

The spoil site next to the Rodanthe Harbor where dredge material is deposited needed to be cleared, the multi-purpose dredge that the corps uses for the project, the Snell, was unavailable, and the estimated $300,000 to $400,000 for the project needed to be secured.

Outten said in a phone interview July 23 that contractors are working on the spoil site to have it cleared and ready before the dredging project begins in August. In addition, the corps reported that they could borrow a similar dredge located in Norfolk by the projected early August start date.

The last obstacle, money for the project, was addressed at the July 15 board meeting.

It was originally hoped that the cost for the dredging would be shared between the corps, the state and the county, however Outten reported at the meeting that there were issues with getting the state and federal governments to pitch in, as both entities stated that they did not have extra funds for the project.

As a result, Outten requested that $324,000 in county funds be redirected in order pay for the upcoming dredging project.

“We have $1.9 million dollars left over in the Oregon Inlet account that we did not spend last year,” he said, with $600,000 belonging to the county and the rest is funding from the state.  “So what we’re proposing is to take $324,000 out of that dredge account (and move it to) the Rodanthe account for the corps to do that work.”

“It’s an emergency ferry channel and something we’re trying to be proactive about,” said Commissioner Steve House at the meeting. “I think this is something we definitely need to do to be proactive during the hurricane season, and to protect our citizens on Hatteras Island. I move to approve.”

Tobin also spoke on the lack of financial support from state and federal agencies, stating that “I think it’s appalling that no one has taken responsibility for this.”

The motion to move the funds was unanimously approved, clearing the way for the dredging at the emergency ferry channel to be completed before the height of hurricane season.

“We are still on track to have dredging done by the first part of August,” said Outten in a later interview. “This is all subject to the corps vessel being available, which could change.”

This story is provided courtesy of the Island Free Press, a digital newspaper covering Hatteras and Ocracoke islands. Coastal Review Online is partnering with the Free Press to provide readers with more environmental and lifestyle stories of interest along our coast.

About the Author

Joy Crist

Joy Crist is a Hatteras Island resident since 1998 and a writer and columnist with the Island Free Press. Her work has also appeared in a number of regional Outer Banks and statewide websites and publications.