Army Corps dredge to again attack shoaling in Oregon Inlet

By on September 9, 2015


The Currituck will work until at least Sept. 20. (Voice)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hopper dredge Currituck has resumed operations in Oregon Inlet, trying to stay ahead of shoaling east of the Bonner Bridge that continues to fill in the main channel of the troublesome waterway.

An Aug. 31 survey of the inlet shows the channel dug earlier this spring across the shoal formed by the Bodie Island Spit has all but filled back in, and boats are again making a hard turn just east of the protective fenders under the bridge to stay in deeper water.

The hopper dredge Currituck began working 12 hours a day in on Monday, and is scheduled to stay until at least Sept. 20, according to the Corps’ Outer Banks Field Office team leader Steven S. Shriver.

Shriver added that another survey of the inlet was conducted Tuesday, and those results would be available in a couple of days.

Plans are for the Currituck to work on straightening the channel back out so boats don’t have to navigate a hard starboard turn so close to the bridge.

“They are going slowly work into the shoal to the north and try to knock it back all the way out to the deeper water,” Shriver said. “They will be working to push it back, little-by-little.”

No definite plans have been set for when more dredging will take place once the Currituck finishes its latest turn, but the funding is in place to pay for it, according to Shriver.

“There might be a short break, and then another dredge will come in,” Shriver said.

A new memorandum of agreement was worked out this spring between the Corps, the state of North Carolina and Dare County to provide dredging on a more regular, as-needed basis in Oregon Inlet and when necessary, in Hatteras Inlet.

The inlet channel has shifted southeast this summer. (USACE/Voice image)

Donnie Potter, the chief of the physical support branch at the Corps’ Wilmington District, said in April that about $7 million annually would allow the Corps to address shoaling before it creates a serious hazard and becomes more difficult to remove.

That has not been possible, he said, since the sidecaster dredge Schweizer was removed about 15 years ago from its long-time post at the Oregon Inlet Coast Guard Station and later, at Wanchese harbor. But shoaling has worsened considerably since Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

The Coast Guard closed the inlet to all boats drawing more than 2 feet of water in late March, before dredging by the sidecaster Merritt, then the Currituck plowed a 100-foot wide, 8-foot deep channel straight across the shoal.

In the summer, predominant southwest winds usually help keep the channel more stable by slowing the shoaling process.

But over the past few weeks, on-shore winds have been more prevalent and appear to have helped migrate more sand across the inlet’s northern shore.

“When we get the northeast and east winds, it does seem to fill in quicker,” Shriver said. “But also it’s a combination of the moon tide or spring tide . . . the more water flowing in to the inlet keeps moving the shoal in.”

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