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Shoaling Alters Pamlico Ferries’ Schedule

The Army Corps of Engineers’ Dredge Murden off Ocracoke. Photo: P. Vankevich/Ocracoke Observer

Shoaling near Ocracoke has forced the state to alter the schedule starting Friday for the Pamlico Sound ferries from the mainland to Ocracoke.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Ferry Division will be running an alternate schedule on Pamlico Sound between Cedar Island, Swan Quarter and Ocracoke because of critical shoaling issues in the ferry channel just outside of Ocracoke’s Silver Lake Harbor.

The following is the schedule for Friday through Tuesday, weather permitting:

  • Ocracoke to Cedar Island:  7:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
  • Cedar Island to Ocracoke: 10:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
  • Ocracoke to Swan Quarter: 7 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
  • Swan Quarter to Ocracoke: 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Shoaling occurs when sand and sediment fill into a ferry channel, making water depths too shallow for safe operation of the ferry system’s largest vessels.

The Army Corps of Engineers’ dredge Murden is working in the Bigfoot Slough channel to clear the shoaling, but dredging operations are dependent on weather and tides. Once the dredging work is complete and water depths in the ferry channel return to acceptable levels, the Ferry Division will resume its regular schedule on both routes.

Based on a series of tweets by @NCFerryPamSound shoaling has been affecting the Pamlico Sound ferry schedules since Sunday, causing many ferry trips to be canceled or delayed.

Justin LeBlanc, chair of the Ocracoke Waterways Commission, reported Friday that the the corps said funding for the Murden will last until the first week of April. The Murden has to leave for another job on April 9, but the side-caster dredge Merritt will be available after that, according to an Ocracoke Observer report.

The Corps plans to conduct a survey of the primary shoal in Big Foot Slough Saturday to better assess the conditions and make adjustments as needed Monday.

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Staff Report

The story was compiled by staff members of Coastal Review Online.