MANNS HARBOR – Dredging
operations in the Hatteras ferry channel was suspended Thursday to allow the Dredge Merritt to get to
safe harbor to ride out the expected high winds and choppy waves caused by
Tropical Storm Andrea through Friday. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ plan is
to get the Merritt back to work in the channel on Saturday.
The Corps of Engineers says the Merritt will continue dredging
operations until it is determined the channel is cleared enough to allow for
safe operation of the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry route on its original route. Once
that happens, the Coast Guard will mark the channel with navigational aids, and
the Ferry Division will do test runs of the route to ensure it is safe for
An initial plan to have the Merritt clear the channel enough for the
larger Dredge Murden to come in and haul sand out of the area was changed by
the Corps of Engineers when it was determined the Murden was too large to
operate properly within the size limitations of the channel.
The Merritt started the dredging operation last week with the goal of
clearing a 10-to-12 foot depth along the route.
An overnight storm
on Jan. 18 made the Hatteras-Ocracoke route too shallow for ferries to travel
safely, and an alternate route has been in use since Jan. 22. Considerable
dredging was done by the Corps of Engineers through the spring, but tests
conducted in late April showed that in three areas of the Hatteras Inlet, sand
had already started to shift back to the areas dredged several weeks earlier. That made
those areas unsafe for ferry vessels, which need at least nine feet of water
depth to operate.
Shifting sand in the
inlet has been an increasing problem for ferry travel in recent years, creating
issues where they did not previously exist. Part of this is a result of the number
of hurricanes and nor’easters that have hit the area.
To handle the
increased passenger traffic going into the summer, the Ferry Division had moved
the Hatteras-Ocracoke route to its summer schedule on May 7. And an additional
six trips in each direction were added on May 21.
For more information
about the Hatteras ferry route, travelers can sign-up to receive messages on
Twitter by going to www.twitter.com/ncdot_ferry
or visit the N.C. 12 Facebook page.
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