Three dredges tackle Hatteras Inlet channels in March

Three dredges tackle Hatteras Inlet channels in March

March 20th, 2023

The Dare County Waterways Commission received updates on a series of dredging events that have taken place in the channels of Hatteras Inlet over the past few weeks at their monthly meeting on Monday, March 13.

Miss Katie arrived in Hatteras village on Wednesday, March 8, and as of the time of the meeting, had removed more than 7,300 cubic yards of material.

“We had a good four days of dredging before the weather hit and we had some debris get in the nozzle,” said EJE Vice-President/Managing Partner Jordan Hennessy at Monday’s meeting. “We had a diver down there today to get it out, [and] Miss Katie will stay down there for at least another week, to try to get at least a good, solid week of dredging in.”

The 156-foot Miss Katie, christened on October 13 at a ceremony in Wanchese, is the result of a public-private partnership with Greenville, N.C.-based EJE Dredging Service, and Miss Katie was built with a $15 million allocation from the state’s Shallow Draft Navigation fund. EJE owns and operates Miss Katie, and the Oregon Inlet Task Force has been charged by Dare County to manage the dredge, including its operation schedule and project monitoring.

This is the second Hatteras Inlet dredging event for Miss Katie since she began working in the fall of 2022. The first event was a 10-day dredging project that took place in the Connector Channel in February, which removed a total of 14,172 cubic yards of material.

The side caster dredge Merritt works in Hatteras Inlet in 2021.

As Grants and Waterways Administrator Barton Grover pointed out, Miss Katie has increased her productivity during this most recent March dredging project by docking on the Ocracoke side of the inlet.

“During the last event, in 10 days they did 14,000 [cubic yards of material removed], and this time they were able to do 7,000 in four days,” said Grover. “You can see their production value by anchoring at the Ocracoke side.”

Miss Katie is expected to be at Hatteras Inlet until approximately March 25.

Meanwhile, the US Army Corps of Engineers is also conducting dredging projects at Hatteras Inlet with their sidecaster dredge Merritt, and their 156-foot hopper dredge Murden.

The Merritt arrived in Hatteras in late February and will be dredging until March 16, when it will leave for a project in Carolina Beach. The Murden is then expected to arrive by next week, and will follow up with an additional 10-12 day dredging operation.

“If everything holds and we don’t get delayed by weather, I think we’re going to start the morning of the 19th at the southern areas of Barney Slough behind Hatteras Island,” said Grover.

One of the reasons for the recent and multiple dredging events is the seasonal dredging window. Dredging is allowed throughout the channels of Hatteras Inlet from October 1 through March 31, and special permission is needed to dredge outside of this timeframe, hence the rush to deepen and widen the channels as much as possible before the window closes.

Grover also reported that the first steps 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 in process, with the sampling expected to be conducted in the next several weeks.

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.”

Commissioners Steve “Creature” Coulter, Danny Couch, KP Scott, Natalie Kavanagh, Kermit Skinner, and Ernie Foster attended the March 13 meeting.

The next Dare County Waterways Commission meeting is on April 10 at the Fessenden Center Annex Building in Buxton.

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