By Connie Leinbach
Passenger ferry service between Ocracoke and Hatteras might be delayed while an appropriation bill to pay for it goes through the legislative process in Raleigh.
Service by the walk-on ferry is set to begin Tuesday (May 25) and continue until Sept. 9, according to previous information from officials. Because the legislative process has yet to be finalized, officials could not say if service would begin on May 25.
According to the N.C. Legislature’s website, House Bill 165, for state highway needs and which includes an amendment with funding for the passenger ferry service, was approved May 6 and is in the Rules Committee.
The amendment, proposed by Rep. Bobby Hanig (R-Currituck), includes an appropriation of $943,000 from the Highway Fund to the Department of Transportation for leasing a passenger ferry for Ocracoke through no later than Sept. 12. Although a start date is not included in the bill, the start date would be when the bill becomes law, Jamie Kritzer, Assistant Director of Communications for the NCDOT, said on Friday.
The General Assembly was not in session Friday. It reconvenes Monday, but the Rules Committee doesn’t meet until Tuesday, according to the legislative calendar. The bill would have to pass Rules, then the Senate and then Gov. Roy Cooper would have to sign it for it to become law.
“The governor has 10 days to sign the bill after it’s adopted, Kritzer, said.
He also said that reservation service for the passenger ferry has not yet opened.
The amendment also includes $62,917 to reimburse Carteret County for having provided this amount last fall to Hyde County to fulfill the local match requirements for grant funds to dredge the Big Foot Slough channel which both the Cedar Island and Swan Quarter ferries must use in their respective routes.
The amendment also awards $362,000 to be used for North Carolina coastal dredging. Though specific areas are not identified, Ocracoke’s county commissioner Randal Mathews said this will be used as a local match for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge Barney Slough in the channel used by the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry.