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More money for Hatteras Inlet dredging

Dredging Hatteras Inlet Jan. 2015. Photo by Stacey Sutton

Dredging Hatteras Inlet Jan. 2015. Photo by Stacey Sutton

WASHINGTON, D.C—The Army Corps of Engineers agreed Wednesday to an additional $1 million for dredging the Hatteras Inlet, and $3.225 million to dredge the Oregon Inlet, both for this fiscal year, according to U.S. Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC).

“Oregon and Hatteras Inlets are vital to the economic success of Eastern North Carolina, which is why I am very pleased to announce that the Army Corps of Engineers has accepted my request for additional money to dredge them,” Jones said in a press release.  “These inlets must be safe and passable for fishermen, boaters and the Coast Guard.”

The Corps’ plan for when and how to use the money at Hatteras has not been finalized, said Joshua Bowlen, Jones’ legislative assistant.

Added to President Obama’s budget request of $300,000 for Hatteras and $2 million for Oregon, total federal dollars this year for Hatteras will be $1.3 million and $5.225 million for the Oregon Inlet.

Jones said he sent a letter in January to Army Corps leadership reminding them of the chronically poor navigation conditions at both inlets.  

Both inlets in recent years have shoaled over.

At Hatteras, the inlet has shoaled in so much since Hurricane Irene in 2011 that the NC Ferry Division in 2013 began using a route that swings farther west into the Pamlico Sound.

This route has added 30 minutes to the crossing time and thousands of dollars more each month in fuel costs while reducing the total number of ferry runs from either side.

Jones also pointed out that the amounts provided in the President’s budget request are insufficient to keep the channels maintained at anything close to their authorized depths. 

Without supplemental funds, both channels may be in danger of closing to vessel traffic during the year, he said.  

While Congress no longer has the ability to legislatively increase funding for specific projects because of an earmark ban imposed in 2011, Congress did attempt to address some of the waterway maintenance issues across the nation in the recently-passed 2016 appropriations bill for the Corps. 

In that bill, Congress created several unallocated pots of money for different project categories, and gave the Corps discretion to determine which projects to fund from these pots. 

In his letter to the Corps, Jones argued that Oregon and Hatteras Inlets are the type of projects Congress had in mind when it provided the Corps with these additional resources. 

Above an underwater survey of the navigable waters in the Hatteras Inlet.