By Connie Leinbach
A day after a story published about the overflowing trash bins at the Ocracoke Convenience Site, David’s Trash, with whom Hyde County has the trash hauling contract, arrived and switched out five bins.
Dave Johnson, head site attendant, made the announcement Wednesday night at the Ocracoke Civic & Business Association civic affairs meeting in the Community Center.
“Most of the old trash left today,” he said. That was about five overflowing bins. Johnson said the full cardboard, glass and comingled recycling bins still haven’t been switched out.
Johnson has been on the job since Oct. 6 and has tidied up the dump considerably.
Let’s give him a round of applause,” Tom Pahl, Ocracoke’s county commissioner, asked the two dozen or so islanders in attendance.
Johnson then explained that he has a number of ideas to improve the dump, such as reversing the traffic flow, enhancing recycling and making minor and major site improvements down the road.
The site improvement budget for the dump currently is around $8,000.
“I want to review the entire solid waste plan for the county to bring it in line with industry standards,” he said.
On Jan. 1, the EPA in conjunction with almost every major corporation in America just put out the initial outline for a new national framework for all solid waste and recycling infrastructure, he said.
Deputy Ferry Division Director Jed Dixon explained that the reason the division is doing maintenance now on the long route ferries, thus reducing the number of runs for a couple of weeks, is because they ran all the boats hard for several weeks after Hurricane Dorian hit to get supplies, equipment and workers to the island.
“After the storm there was a huge push from the ferries to try to give you guys as much service as we can,” he said. “And we’re having to do a little bit of maintenance now that we would have typically done in the fall.”
Dixon said the dormitory for ferry workers and the office were both heavily damaged in the flood and are being repaired.
The lack of dormitories for ferry workers is why there is no 7 a.m. ferry to Swan Quarter.
If they can find lodging on the island for 16 workers, they could reinstate the normal winter schedule, but they’d need at least a one-year commitment for that.
“I think it’s been a real difficult several months for everybody, and we want to continue to try to do everything we can to give you guys everything you need,” he said. “We did throw a lot of assets and a lot of money into the (hurricane) response. And we’re really trying to watch our money spend.”
The Hatteras route is now on the winter schedule.
Renting the same Seastreak passenger ferry again this year looks good, he said.
“We’ll know in a couple of weeks,” he said. “Our overall ridership was up (last year), and were up a little bit on the sound, as well.”
Although the Ocracoke trams, which were flooded during Dorian, are not under the Ferry Division’s purview, Dixon said the Department of Transportation is looking for funding to repurchase new ones with a Golden Leaf grant but it’s not a done deal yet.
As for whether new trams could be purchased with insurance, Pahl said the county administrators had discussed insurance with their insurance provider.
“And we were very much under the impression that the trams were insured, but they’re not,” Pahl said.
Islanders asked that the division, in its communication, include other forms instead of just Twitter and also to explain why schedules are changed rather than just announce schedule changes.
Dixon also said the Division is looking to get more dredging done near the Big Foot Slough channel.
“And one day we damaged the Sea Level and the Swan Quarter in the same day,” he said.
The new M/V Rodanthe, which debuted briefly last summer then had engine problems, is back in service, he said.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore
David Hallac, superintendent of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, spoke to the group via phone.
“We are now able to take some of the debris loads off on the Hatteras Ferry,” he said. This will speed up the debris removal.
The bulkhead installation project at the end of the stacking lanes should be done by mid-February he said, but the north end of Ocracoke is further eroding, he said.
“There’s an old wooden retaining wall that was holding up the stacking lane that I’ve been watching every few weeks over the last year and I was shocked when I saw yesterday that that had collapsed and partially falling into the inlet,” he said. “Based on what we’re seeing we expect continued extreme levels of erosion on that side of the island.”
Because of this, Ramp 59, the northernmost beach access ramp, is inaccessible most of the time, he said.
The potential addition of five groins to be placed in the inlet perpendicular to the land at the end of the island should help deflect the rushing current from further eroding the land, but an environmental assessment will first have to be done. That may take up to two years.
While the Park Service has two visitor contact points, one at the south end of the island and one at the NPS campground, the Park Service will not have the one at the campground because the kiosk there was destroyed.
The three passenger ferry restrooms will be cleaned up and ready and porta potties will be set up next to the ferry office.
As for the public boat slips beside the ferry docks, the hurricane knocked out the electric service. Those boat slips have water, but the electric won’t be repaired this summer.
He said since the visitor center will not be repaired, Park Service interpreter rangers will be housed in Hatteras and will be on the passenger ferry giving programs.
Dorian flooded the light keeper’s quarters at the Ocracoke Lighthouse, Hallac said, for the fifth time. There’s no funding to repair it until 2025, he said.
As for the mountain of vegetative debris beside the campground, Hallac said that will be hauled off.
“We have a lot of issues with exotic plants on the island that you’re probably aware, and it’s generally a poor practice to chip debris like that because it can end up spreading the seeds,” he said. “Household or ornamental plants and things like that can spread and cause problems for the native vegetation.”
As for the Hammock Hills nature trail, he said that staff needs more time to evaluate the damage before putting an interim plan in place to reopen it.
Pahl also stressed that the final debris pickup is going on now and will end Feb. 15. If people have demolition to do and vegetative debris to get it to the side of the road soon and to call Teresa Adams to let her know that it’s there.
Hyde County Manager Kris Noble further explained the grant application for financial help to raise houses.
Those who want to be considered must first fill out the “common application.” Teresa Adams can help with this.
Pahl discussed the imminent arrival of travel trailers for use as temporary housing and explained that all assistance, including getting on the list for a trailer, must go through casework.
He said 35 trailers are in Swan Quarter awaiting disposition. The first five have been prioritized by caseworkers to go on properties where people are rebuilding their houses. The intent for these trailers is for them to be temporary.
But the same “common application” will be used to prioritize trailer distribution and for getting a grant for house raising.
Long-term recovery group
Pahl said the state emergency management people, who were on the island for several weeks after Dorian, told Hyde officials the island needed to create a local long-term recovery group (LGRT).
“It was actually a surprise to me that this is standard procedure,” he said. Dare County has had one for years.
State EMS people said that in communities across the state, the LTRG is not a county function.
So, the Ocracoke Interfaith Relief and Recovery Team (OIRRT) is overseeing the recovery process.
Anyone who filled out an application when the Joint Recovery Center trailer was in the Variety Store parking lot in October and November is in the system and should have been contacted by a caseworker, Pahl said.
If they haven’t, they should contact Ivey Belch, chair of the OIRRT, or see Teresa Adams, the Hyde County Ocracoke liaison, from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays and Thursdays in the Community Center office.
She can also be reached at 252-368-6430 during normal working hours and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.