Hatteras Ferry Channel Dredging to Continue Once Tropical Storm Andrea Passes Thursday, June 06, 2013

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 regular use.

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.

BACKGROUND

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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