It was only last week that water depths at Oregon Inlet, a Federal channel authorized at 14 feet, declined to less than four feet in some areas, prohibiting recreational and commercial vessels from accessing the Atlantic Ocean.
Favorable winds have improved conditions this week and emergency dredging operations have begun (weather permitting), allowing passage for some boats. But County Commissioners know that safe passage through the inlet is inconsistent, depending on wind and weather, and that federal funding for dredging operations is limited and would not last long.
They have been told that approximately $280,000 remains for dredging in the current Federal budget and the estimated cost for operating the hopper dredge is $30,000 per day.
The Dare County Board of Commissioners has reached out to President Barack Obama for help. The letter, dated April 24 and signed by Chairman Warren Judge, emphasizes the economic importance of Oregon Inlet to the Outer Banks and the entire region and requests a meeting with the President to discuss this vital issue.
“Mr. President, we have an emergency situation in Dare County. We desperately need to find a dependable and reoccurring funding source so that Oregon Inlet can have a consistent dredging effort to maintain this navigable channel on a year round basis, until such time as there is an alternate method of sand management,” the letter stated.
In recent days, Congressman Walter B. Jones (NC-3) and Senator Kay Hagan have submitted letters to Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, requesting a meeting with Dare County officials. Her office establishes policy direction and provides supervision of all aspects of the Civil Works program of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Press Release, May 5, 2014