RALEIGH — The N.C. Department of Transportation Ferry
Division, U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are working together
to clear a safe way to return the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry route to its original
route. The ferries have been using an alternate route between the two terminals
since Friday, Feb. 22, when the original route became too shallow for ferries
to travel safely.
Test runs were conducted
by the Ferry Division last Saturday over the short route that was dredged over the
past two months by a Corps of Engineer’s contractor. Those test trips
determined there are some issues that need to be addressed to ensure the safety
of the passengers, crews and ferries. They include an indication that in three
areas of the Hatteras Inlet, shifting sand has already started moving back into
some of the dredged areas. That makes those areas unsafe for travel by ferry
vessels, which need eight to nine feet of water depth.
Such shifting sand in
the inlet has been an increasing problem for ferry travel in recent years, creating
issues where they did not previously exist. This is partly due to the number of
hurricanes and nor’easters that have hit the area. It was an overnight storm on
January 18 that created the latest issue, and forced the suspension of the
The Corps of Engineers,
which is responsible for keeping the inlet channel clear, conducted underwater
surveys of the affected areas on Tuesday. Those results are being reviewed to
help determine as early as Thursday what course of action should be taken to
open the short route as soon as possible. Some touchup dredging is an option,
and the Corp is making preparations to be on scene as soon as possible. That would
clear the way for using the shorter route by the third week of May.
The survey results
could also indicate locations where a slight shift in the route would allow for
safe passage of the ferries. That would require the Coast Guard to re-mark some
navigational aids, which could get service back to the shorter route even
The Ferry Division plans
to move ahead with starting its summer schedule on Tuesday, May 7 on the
alternate route. That will add another 12 trips in each direction from both
Hatteras and Ocracoke, bringing the number of trips to 32 a day from each
The schedule that will
be in effect May 7 through Oct. 7, has daily trips out of Hatteras at 5, 6, 7
and 8 a.m., then every half hour between 8:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., then 8, 9, 11
and midnight. Ocracoke departure times are at 4:30, 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 a.m.,
then every half hour from 9:30 a.m. until 8 p.m., then 9, 9:30 and 10:30 p.m.
and 12:30 a.m.
For more information
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