Dare asks state lawmakers to fund purchase of hopper dredge

By on May 15, 2018

The Currituck, which has been working in Oregon Inlet this week, is similar to the dredge being considered. (Pat Morris)

Dare County is actively pursuing creation of a partnership between the state and a yet-to-be-identified private company to purchase a shallow-draft hopper dredge, with the county paying for its operation in Oregon and Hatteras inlets and other channels.

And while Dare would likely be using it the most, the dredge would be available to help clear other waterways along North Carolina’s coastline.

Dredging has crawled to a near halt as federal funding for smaller inlets and harbors has been repeatedly cut by Congress and the White House for decades.

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Dare County and North Carolina have since picked up the slack by paying the Army Corps of Engineers to clean out the channels with their limited fleet.

The effort is being led by County Commissioner Jim Tobin, who said at the May 7 board meeting he has made multiple trips to Raleigh to negotiate with members of the General Assembly on a bill that would allow purchase of the dredge.

However, time is of the essence to get the bill passed this year, as the General Assembly opens its short session on Wednesday, and many inside and outside the state capitol say they expect to adjourn by mid-June.

Under an early draft of legislation in the state Senate, $15 million would be allocated from North Carolina’s Shallow Draft Navigation Channel Dredging and Aquatic Weed Fund for a forgivable loan through Dare County to a private company that would pay for the dredge.

Established by the General Assembly in 2013, the fund gets a percentage of the state’s gasoline tax and a portion of boat registration fees.

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A total of $22 million was available for grants statewide as of last October, according to a presentation by the state Division of Water Resources in New Bern.

The bill would require the private company to pay the other $15 million for the dredge out of its pocket, and provide work to Dare County at a significantly lower rate, in exchange for the state’s loan eventually being forgiven.

In a formal resolution passed at the May 7 meeting, commissioners called on the state to increase dredging in Dare County and adjacent waterways, actively pursue the acquiring of additional dredging equipment, and reiterated the county’s commitment to fund dredging projects.

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The resolution includes a pledge of $3,250,000, with $3 million already set aside from an occupancy tax allocation for dredging.

“This commitment by Dare County is for five years,” Tobin said. “The (state’s) commitment is for the dredge to be in Dare County for the first ten years.”

Matching money from the state that would bring the total to $10 million for operation of the dredge over a five-year period and would come from the shallow draft channel Fund.

County Manager Bobby Outten said the authorizing legislation, which has been through a number of changes in recent weeks, would have the county enter an agreement with the private contractor that would give the county almost exclusive use of the dredge.

Concerns have arisen that the dredge would only be used to keep Oregon Inlet open, since $9 million of the county and state funds are allocated to those waters, and an early version of the bill specifically mentioned the Oregon Inlet Task Force would be in charge.

“(The company would) own it, they maintain it, they operate it … we don’t have anything to do with that,” Outten told commissioners. “What does happen in the legislation is, (the dredge is) assigned to us.”

Outten said Monday that means the dredge would be available to use anywhere in the county and not just Oregon Inlet.

Comments

  • Really?

    Good luck with that one.

    Wednesday, May 16 @ 12:15 am
  • Seal

    This makes absolute perfect sense, and should have been in operation years ago ! And ironically that’s why it will never happen !!!!

    Wednesday, May 16 @ 10:01 am
  • gsurf123

    A perfect use of money from the slush fund run by the Tourism Board.

    Wednesday, May 16 @ 10:04 am
  • scales of balance

    Aren’t those funds being saved up for beach nourishment? Isnt that the point of saving money, for the proverbial rainy day? And now lawmakers want to raid it, just because it’s there? Seems like fishing needs to add their own taxes to their sales and pay for their own projects.

    Wednesday, May 16 @ 11:56 am
  • Windy Bill

    Keeping an important channel open is the same as keeping a highway open. It provides us healthy food and healthy jobs.

    Wednesday, May 16 @ 12:36 pm
  • WombatNC

    This makes too much sense. Once the GOP-led General Assembly gets their dose of “smelling salts” from their campaign contributors, they’ll just divert this money towards more tax breaks for the rich and everything will be fine. BUT, maybe, if Boswell and Cook want to leave their offices/terms in better standing with the folks of Dare, they’ll fight to get this done. Keeping the inlets open is what they both campaigned on, and admittedly, have done a good job working for while holding office.
    Coast Guard Oregon Inlet – it’s a matter of national security! and what @Windy Bill said.

    Wednesday, May 16 @ 6:38 pm
  • The Captain

    What most people don’t know is that the Nags Head Beach Nourishment is now clogging the Inlet. We all know the beaches are moving South. If we could pay to nourish NH we could pay to remove it from the Inlet. To the Victor belongs the spoils

    Wednesday, May 16 @ 7:35 pm
  • jackie harris

    The only problem I have with this program is the secrecy of the name of the company that is going to get the dredge, Are they afraid that by naming the company and owner it would bring on a bitting war??? Sounds like a deal has already been done in the back room, This is not Open Gov’t.!

    Thursday, May 17 @ 8:17 am
  • OBXCAPT

    The hopper is just a step about the sidecast dredge. Spend the money for a pipe dredge like they use on the beach projects and stop throwing money away.

    Thursday, May 17 @ 1:58 pm
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