By Outer Banks Voice on October 23, 2021
Due to the dynamic nature of Hatteras Inlet, the surface and subsurface environment is constantly shifting and changing. Extensive erosion has significantly increased the width of Hatteras Inlet. In 1993, Hatteras Inlet was approximately one-third of a mile wide; now that distance has increased to over two miles, making it impossible to maintain the historic route efficiently and safely. As more erosion and shoaling continue to occur every year, significant challenges to local navigation have escalated.
The recently released Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Proposed Realignment of the Hatteras Ferry Channel explores a range of alternatives to reestablish a safe and navigable channel between Hatteras Island and Ocracoke Island for residents, visitors, supplies and services between the islands—and for the U.S. Coast Guard and commercial and recreational fishermen to access the open ocean through Hatteras Inlet.
The report indicates that “having a channel that follows natural deep water will allow for a safer, more reliable channel, reduced dredging effort, and an associated reduction in maintenance dredging costs, as well as having the least impact to the environment.” Therefore, the proposed action is to abandon the historic direct route to the Hatteras Inlet gorge and to reroute the channel to follow natural deep water along what is commonly known as the “horseshoe route.”
This is the only way for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to economically maintain access to Hatteras Inlet and allow transportation of passengers, goods and services to continue from the mainland, as well as allow safe access to open ocean waters. The horseshoe route is officially marked by the United States Coast Guard and has been utilized by mariners as well as North Carolina Ferry Division vessels since 2013.
To access the full report, which includes diagrams of the proposed project, visit Hatteras Ferry Channel Realignment Draft Environmental Assessment October 2021.