The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Wilmington District, commenced emergency dredging operations at Oregon Inlet two days ago. This cleanup program will remove the shoaling that has been obstructing the federal channel passage for commercial fishing vessels.
The side casting dredger Merritt will clear a path for the District’s special purpose dredger Currituck. Excessive shoaling has left the channel with a depth of two feet in some areas. The Merritt typically operates in depths of at least five feet, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.
If the Merrittis successful, it will remain in the area for about two weeks until the Currituck’s arrival. The Currituck will then continue dredging of the channel, and will place the dredged material near the scour hole at the Bonner Bridge footings to the south of the inlet’s navigation span.
“We recognize this as a very important gateway for vessels traveling in and out of the Oregon Inlet and will do everything possible to re-open the channel to vessel traffic,” said Wilmington District Chief of Operations Bob Sattin. “The Merritt will be challenged by the extremely shallow channel depth.”
Sattin said the latest survey shows depths as low as two feet, and that the Merritt will have difficulty cutting a pilot channel in water this shallow.
The Wilmington District estimates the cost of keeping the federal channel dredged to the depth needed for commercial vessels is from $4 – 5 million annually.
Press Release, April 7, 2014