Ocracoke Observer: Dredging underway of Big Foot Slough, Hatteras Inlet

The side caster dredge Merritt works on the channel alongside Hatteras Island spit. [Connie Leinbach/Ocracoke Observer]

By Connie Leinbach, Ocracoke Observer
After a few days of inclement weather, the hopper dredge Murden is on the job scouring out the shoaling sands in Big Foot Slough while dredging in the South Ferry Channel, at the north end, will benefit commercial fishing vessels.

Ferry Division Spokesman Tim Hass said the Murden, owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE), arrived on Ocracoke on March 17 and worked for a day and a half in Big Foot Slough, which is just outside of Ocracoke, before halting due to inclement weather the last several days.

Since early March, the Ferry Division has canceled some ferry runs in the Pamlico Sound due to shoaling in Big Foot Slough.

The Ferry Division tweeted today that due to shoaling the following Pamlico Sound routes are canceled through March 25: 7:30 a.m. Cedar Island to Ocracoke; 10 a.m. Ocracoke to Swan Quarter; 1:30 p.m. Ocracoke to Swan Quarter and 4:30 p.m. Ocracoke to Cedar Island.

They have canceled these runs to prevent suspending service entirely on these routes, Hass said.

For daily updates, islanders are urged to monitor the N.C. Ferry Pamlico Sound routes on Twitter @NCFerryPamSound.

Hass said the Swan Quarter, the largest boat in the Pamlico route fleet, drafts deeper than the others and will be out of service until the slough is dredged.

“We need the channel to be safe,” Hass said about the current dredging project. “(The Murden) will be there however long it takes.”

Islanders and visitors to Ocracoke may see the side caster dredge, Merritt, if they are on a ferry between Ocracoke and Hatteras.

That dredge is finishing up a project to dredge the South Ferry Channel on the Ocracoke side of Hatteras Inlet, but this project won’t benefit the ferries traveling to and from Ocracoke.

The Dare County Board of Commissioners on March 8 approved $60,000 to help pay for additional dredging that the side caster dredge Merritt has been working on.

This channel benefits commercial and recreational fishing boats and the Coast Guard on their way from Hatteras out into the ocean, Dare County Project Manager Brent Johnson said in an interview today.

Dredging was temporarily suspended, Johnson said, because the Merritt bent a rudder last Friday when it got pushed into some shoaling. It’s on its way to the Ferry Division’s boatyard in Mann’s Harbor for repair and he expects it back on the job this Friday.

The project will go beyond its allotted time because of the intense shoaling in this part of the inlet.

Johnson said that in the mornings when the tide is higher, the Merritt works in the South Ferry Channel then moves to the Hatteras Inlet in the afternoon.

Johnson also said that the Merritt needs to scoop out an area seven feet deep by 100 feet wide and has only done five feet of depth and 60 feet of width.

At the March 16 Ocracoke Waterways Commission meeting, Todd Horton of the ACE, noted Dare’s contribution and said after the Merritt and the Murden were done in Hatteras, they would come to Ocracoke to dredge Big Foot.

In this Army Corps of Engineers survey of the South Ferry Channel area, area outlined by a dotted line shows the area where the Dare County commissioners appropriated more money for dredging. Ocracoke’s South Dock can be seen at the bottom.

This story originally appeared on OBXToday.com. Read More local stories here.