Article Courtesy: outerbanksvoice.com | By Rob Morris published on March 30, 2015 | Please Click Here for Original Article.
Two dredges are steaming to Oregon Inlet to start clearing out the closed channel starting as early as Wednesday.
The sidecast dredge Merritt, which can operate in shallow water, will carve out an 8-foot-deep opening to allow the larger Currituck, a hopper dredge, to do more extensive work, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said in a statement Monday.
On Saturday, the U.S. Coast Guard enacted its emergency power to prohibit boats drawing more than 2 feet from motoring within 100 yards of the Bonner Bridge.
Charter boats need 3 to 5 feet and cannot head to sea through the inlet as Easter weekend approaches. There are also only three days left in the lucrative commercial bluefin tuna season.
The Corps recently assumed the power to create a temporary restrictive zone to protect the bridge if necessary, but the Coast Guard also said that the channel was too shallow for its search-and-rescue vessels.
“We recognize the importance of this gateway for vessels traveling in and out of the Oregon Inlet and will continue to do everything possible to re-open the channel,” Donnie Potter, chief of the Physical Support Branch with the Corps’ Wilmington District, said in the statement.
A survey last week showed the federal channel with a depth of 6 feet under the navigation span of the Bonner Bridge and less than 2 feet on the seaward side.
The Currituck, which pumps dredge spoil into its hold then usually takes it past the ocean bar for dumping, will work on deepening the channel to 14 feet, the statement said. How long it will last is anyone’s guess. Shoaling can be rapid, especially if winds are out of the northeast.
Both dredges were docked Monday night in the Port of Morehead City.
Funding of $1.2 million was provided after U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C. earlier this year asked the Corps to shift discretionary money provided in last year’s federal appropriations bill.
The Corps estimates keeping the channel deep enough for commercial vessels would cost $7 million to $8 million a year. The Corps was allocated $2 million in fiscal year 2015 for all of Manteo (Shallowbag Bay), not just Oregon Inlet.
Above: The hopper dredge Currituck. Image courtesy: outerbanksvoice.com