Hatteras, Rodanthe and Avon top waterways panel agenda

By on August 16, 2018

The small Rodanthe harbor plays a big role as the emergency ferry basin when N.C. 12 is damaged. (CRO)

By Joy Crist

The Dare County Waterways Commission tackled a long list of Outer Banks projects at their Aug. 13 meeting in Buxton, including updates on the impending fall dredging at Hatteras Inlet, recent clearing of Rodanthe Harbor channel and discussion on what to do about problems in Avon Harbor.

The Rodanthe Harbor, which serves as the launching point for the Rodanthe-Stumpy Point emergency ferry, was successfully dredged in late July by the U.S. Corps of Engineers.

The Snell tackled the shallow area close to the harbor over five to six, expanding the depths from roughly 4.5 feet to 8.5 feet.

Plans are also in the works on the county level to come up with a long-term maintenance plan that will address the common reed overgrowth around the harbor, which could hinder the accessibility and size of the adjacent spoil site.

Several topics pertaining to Hatteras Inlet were discussed in depth, starting with the need to move buoys in the South Ferry Channel. “This is a high priority,” said Chairman David May.

In addition, the commissioners discussed the steps  needed  to start dredging the South Ferry Channel, (or Connecting Channel), on Sept. 1, which would be a month outside the permitted window of Oct. 1 through March 31.

Outside of this window, approval is required from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, the Division of Coastal Management and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“If things are in place, can we move the start date to September 1?” asked Commissioner Steve Coulter. “My concern is that we’re going to lose all the work that (the corps) has done in the spring.”

According to Joen Petersen of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the tentative answer was yes, but there were a lot of steps required.

“The (hopper dredge) Currituck is in Dare County for the month of September, so if permits were in place, we could likely get the hopper there,” said Petersen.

Waterways commissioner member and County Commissioners Danny Couch reported that he would check with the county manager on the next steps.

“We need to start to firm up a plan and take it day by day, and determine what our priorities are,” Couch said.

Jim Medlock, Corps of Engineers civil works project manager, also gave an update the Rollinson Channel leading to Hatteras Harbor.

Medlock said there were five or six sitesin North Carolina with similar issues, and the corps was looking into grouping them to create one environmental assessment for future dredging – a process which could take roughly a year.

In the meantime, emergency dredging in Rollinson Channel connected to Hurricane Matthew is slated to begin in the early fall, though there is not an exact start date.

“We haven’t gotten a response from the contractor yet on when they’ll be there, and what they can do, but we did ask them to put the breakwater first as their top priority,” said Medlock, noting that if available, the contractor could start as early as Sept. 1.

“We anticipate having an answer by the end of the month,” Medlock said.

A trio of Avon village property owners asked the Waterways Commission for guidance on what to do about erosion on properties that border the northern side of the Avon Harbor.

According to both the owners and accompanying satellite images, material from these northern properties have eroded and drifted into the harbor, creating a spit as well as shallower depths in the harbor itself.

Todd Horton, the Corps’ deputy chief of navigation, noted that the Avon Harbor hadn’t been dredged in at least 30 years, and it was also determined that if the primary purpose of the project was for allowing shallow draft navigation through the channel, and not sand mitigation, it could be eligible for state funds.

The cost for such a project was also discussed, with commission members and Corps representatives noting that the area could be addressed with smaller equipment — namely an excavator — for a fraction of the price of a larger dredging project.

Petersen noted that a similar undertaking tjatmoved roughly 13,000 cubic yards worth of material 150 yards cost around $50,000. Still, obtaining funds for such a project remained a question.

“The historic and heritage (background) is there, and if this could be reestablished as a recreation spot, there’s some opportunity there,” said Couch. “If you could come together as a group, you could have a good thing going here.”

Capt. Bion Stewart, commander of U.S. Coast Guard Sector North Carolina, also attended the meeting.

“It’s good to be in this environment to see how the work we do affects these local neighborhoods,” said Stewart. “(There is a) great relationship with this commission, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Corps, and I have never seen the amount of cooperation I’ve seen in North Carolina, and especially here on the Outer Banks.”

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Hank Hill

It’s pretty obvious that the old way of doing things need to change. I don’t know how the ACOE does it’s accounting but they would never be hired in the private sector. For an emergency like Hatteras Inlet the Currituck not taking out of the inlet just changes the situation for a short time. The long run is hurting the state and businesses.