By Connie Leinbach
The Ocracoke Waterways Commission’s meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 18, will focus on one agenda item–the proposal by the NC Department of Transportation Division 1 to submit a South Ferry Dock relocation proposal to the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).
The meeting will be held in the Ocracoke Community Center and will be open to the public with facial masks as required by the state. It will also be broadcast live via the Hyde County Facebook page.
The STIP program is NCDOT’s 10-year transportation plan, which is updated every two years. It prioritizes transportation projects according to region and each region is given an allocation from which to fund them.
Of concern to islanders and officials has been the continued erosion at the South Dock ferry basin at the north end of the island and overwash along the north end of N.C. 12.
The Waterways Commission last fall received an NCDOT feasibility study for moving South Dock to a spot about a mile south of the pony pens.
According to the study, for Option A, a ferry ramp would extend approximately 9,000 feet from the existing NC 12 easement and beyond a nearby sand reef into the Pamlico Sound, and would require minimal to no dredging for ferry vehicles. It would cost about $87 million.
In Option B, the ferry ramp would extend into the Sound approximately 5,000 feet from the existing NC 12 easement to a point inshore of the outer sand reef and would require channel dredging to accommodate ferry vessel operations. It would cost about $52 million.
Both propose that N.C. 12 would end there. However, ferry crossing time from Hatteras would be about 90 minutes.
Other ideas in the study suggested moving the road, building a bridge in the Pamlico Sound or building a causeway over the area.
During the April 20 waterways meeting, Catherine Peele, planning and development manager for the Ferry Division, had said the Ferry Division would submit the proposal to move the South Dock to the STIP.
“We hope to review how and why NCDOT got to this decision, how the process unfolds from here, and how our community can voice our perspective(s) on this proposal,” said Justin LeBlanc, chair of the commission, in a press release about the meeting.
He said the meeting will start with a short overview presentation and NCDOT officials will be available remotely to answer questions.
The STIP’s Division 1 consists of Bertie, Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hertford, Hyde, Martin, Northampton, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Tyrrell and Washington counties.
Kris Noble, Hyde County manager, reported at the April meeting that Hyde County was among 25 coastal counties to receive a Resilient Communities grant. This is a planning grant that will create a process where Hyde can identify hazards and risks to the community.
The proposals in the feasibility study are possible long-term solutions, Noble said at the meeting, adding that Dare County also received a Resilient Communities grant to deal with the road problems on Hatteras. Hyde is part of the newly formed N.C. 12 Task Force.
Eventually, Noble said, she will seek community input and consensus on a sustainable solution for the highway, but in the short term, NC Department of Transportation will continue to add sandbags and scoop the sand back onto the dunes as needed.
“That’s DOT’s highway,” she said.