News Stories

District's dredge fleet busy in NC waters

Published Feb. 13, 2008

   The Wilmington District’s dredge vessel fleet has been logging hundreds of nautical miles and pumping tons of sand to keep North Carolina’s rivers, channels and inlet crossings open and safe for the public.  Also, various dredging contracts have been awarded and are underway for the same reason.

    In February, one of the workhorses of the District, the special purpose dredge Currituck, was in the Morehead City area to make life a bit easier for mariners. 

    “The town of Beaufort had a lot of concerns about the shoaling up there and they asked us for help,” said Chief of Navigation Roger Bullock.  “Last year we had a pipeline job and pumped the material to Fort Macon beaches.  The navigation channels haven’t shut down, but some of the deeper draft boats are risking coming out of the channels around the rock jetty at Radio Island.”

   The Currituck, Bullock said, is usually off on a distant project as far north as New England and as far south as Florida.  But it has been close to home in coastal North Carolina for an unusual three months, and for the people who boat in and out of the Beaufort and Morehead City area it was in the right place at the right time.    

  “There was no cost effective way to bring in a contractor to that channel, and the Beaufort Harbor Project had no funding.  Since the project had been part of the emergency supplemental funding from Hurricane Isabel, we were able to take a look at some other projects to find out if we could piece together enough funding to be able to get out there with the Currituck.”

  South of Morehead City near Swansboro, the Currituck began clearing the channel at Bogue Inlet.

   “There are some areas between the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway going out toward the ocean that under our Finding of No Significant Impacts (FONSI) we’re not able to dredge using a sidecaster.  We needed to use the Currituck because there’s not enough material in that whole region to justify using a pipeline because of the associated costs to bring one there.  We’ll be there for eight days to knock out the shoals, and take the material around to the Emerald Isle shoreline and dump it as close to the beach as possible to keep sand in the system.  Then the Currituck will be in for repairs at the Engineer Maintenance Yard before it goes back up to Manteo and eventually further north to serve the North Atlantic Division.”

   Other dredging vessels are also busy along the coast.  Bullock said the Merritt cleared the Hatteras Ferry Channel that goes to Ocracoke, which is only accessible by ferries. 

   “There’s no other way to get over there so it’s considered a subsistence harbor channel. It’s a high priority for dredging and we were able to get over and help them out.”

   The Dredge Fry worked another federal channel, Big Foot Slough, which is the approach channel to Silver lake Harbor.  The Fry crew dredged Big Foot Slough “because the ferry captains informed Wilmington District Navigation that some shoaling was occurring.”   

   Up north, Bullock said an ocean-certified pipeline contract will work to dig the Oregon Inlet spit and ocean bar with material going to the beach at Pea Island. 

   “That’s good for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and good for the North Carolina Department of Transportation.  This is a ‘clean out’ job because we’ve been struggling for the past two years trying to keep that inlet open for the fishing vessels.  There are some 10 to 12-foot draft fishing vessels that come through there and a pretty good sized fishing fleet.  We hope to start the contract in August.” 

   Bullock said there’s good news for boaters who use the AIWW in North Carolina.  

   “We’re currently digging the channel that runs through the firing range at Camp Lejeune and in Bogue Sound.  We will also dredge New River Inlet crossing and Carolina Beach Inlet Crossing as well as Shinn Creek near Wrightsville Beach.  That means the AIWW will be clear from the Virginia line all the way to Morehead City.  And now we’re digging from Morehead City all the way to the Cape Fear River.  So we’re hoping to have authorized depth of 12 feet for that entire area by the end of April.” 

   Within the Wilmington area, Bullock said work has just been completed on the Anchorage Basin to its authorized depth of 42 feet.  

   “Our annual priorities are typically the Anchorage Basin and the Ocean Bar shoals.  Ships absolutely need to get in from the Ocean Bar.  The majority of basin shoaling comes from inland areas where sediments flow down to the port and drop down into the basin.  A lot of time it’s weather-dependent; how much rain fell inland that would create silt and erosion.  It settles by the State Port in quantities averaging 1,000,000 cubic yards annually.”

   Funding-wise, Bullock said work will be plentiful in FY08. 

   “We came out good this fiscal year.  In the past couple of years we may not have had the ability to meet our mission on the AIWW or any of the shallow draft inlets, if it had not been for the state of North Carolina helping us with our budget shortfall challenges.  We had zero funding from the President’s budget for the shallow draft inlets, but this fiscal year things are looking good and it’s great to be busy.”