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Update Sept. 18, 2017. 1:37 p.m.: Hyde County has just announced that the Ferry Division meetings on Ocracoke will be the THIRD Mondays of every other month, and the times will be at 3 p.m. This change is reflected in the story below.
By Connie Leinbach
With the advent of the Ocracoke Waterways Commission, the monthly meetings with the N.C. Ferry Division on Ocracoke about operations will be reduced to every other month.
This was announced at the Sept. 11 meeting. The next Ferry Division meeting on the island will be at 3 p.m. Monday, Nov. 20, in the Community Center.
At the request of Ocracoke’s County Commissioner Tom Pahl, the Hyde County commissioners in July approved this new commission to work on solutions to navigation in the Hatteras and Ocracoke inlets as well as issues with Silver Lake harbor.
Pahl announced the members of the committee at the Sept. 5 commissioners’ meeting. In addition to Pahl, members of the commission are David Hilton, chair, Justin LeBlanc, vice-chair, Erik O’Neal, secretary, Darlene Styron, Vince O’Neal and Rudy Austin.
This group was scheduled to meet today (Sept. 18) in the Ocracoke Community Center, but that meeting was cancelled. They will continue to meet at 5:30 p.m. the third Monday of each month and the next meeting will be Monday, Oct. 16. Ferry Division officials also will attend these meetings.
Bill Rich, Hyde County manager, began the monthly ferry meetings in 2015 after the long route across the Hatteras Inlet was officially sanctioned. The longer ferry ride has resulted in fewer runs between islands and therefore fewer cars and day-trippers journeying to the island.
Islanders’ concerns with this prompted the Ferry Division, then led by Ed Goodwin, to explore the purchase of a passenger ferry to help relieve the traffic lines at Hatteras.
In August, 25-year Ferry Division employee Harold Thomas was named director of the agency.
Chris Bock, Ferry Division district 1 superintendent based in Hatteras, was the only Ferry Division official to attend the September meeting in the Community Center.
He followed up on some ideas floated in prior meetings.
One is for the last ferry to leave Ocracoke at midnight instead of 12:30 a.m. to mirror the last ferry departure at Hatteras each night, also at midnight. He is working on making this change in 2018.
Bock said the Ferry Division received approval to dump more dredge spoil sand at the northern tip of the island at the ferry stacking traffic lanes. He said the National Park Service approved taking some of the sand from the dredge spoil site on the south side of the dock for this purpose.
The division also received a permit to widen the basin where the ferries enter to reach the dock.
As for the passenger ferry, Bock said modifications on both the Hatteras and the Silver Lake docks are scheduled to begin in late October.
Passenger ferry service between the islands is scheduled to begin sometime next spring in time for the high tourist season. Along with that service, four electric trams will run in Ocracoke Village for these car-less passengers
Bock said that as of now, the trams will seat 11 to 15, including room for those passengers in wheelchairs.
Tram service will go from the Silver Lake dock area along Irvin Garrish Highway to Howard’s Pub and back along Back Road.