South dock ferry terminal located at the north end of Ocracoke Island. Photo: P. Vankevich

This story was corrected from an earlier version to explain that the South Dock at the north end of Ocracoke is for vehicle ferries.

By Kip Tabb | Outer Banks Voice on October 16, 2021. published courtesy of Outer Banks Voice

As the NC12 Task Force continues to address how to keep open the only road connecting Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands with the rest of the world, consensus is growing within the group that short-term and temporary fixes will not solve the problem.

At its Oct. 14 meeting in the Dare County Administration building, the working group of the NC12 Task Force subcommittee stakeholders discussed how to address the hotspot between Frisco and Hatteras Village.

The group had come to consensus that a bridge in the sound was going to be needed to bypass the Frisco/Hatteras hotspot and the discussion was focusing on where on the Frisco side it should begin. At the Oct. 14 meeting, National Park Service Superintendent Dave Hallac cautioned against short-term solutions.

“A study had been done showing that the short-term solutions that are put into place…are having long term impact,” Hallac said. “For example, every time you push that dune back up and make it higher, it prevents the overwash from making the island wider, and for making elevation where roads could be higher. So you’re actually exacerbating the problem with a short-term solution.”

The group, however, did not see a way to get to the long-term solutions without stabilizing the shoreline using beach nourishment, and the members agreed that the best way forward at the Frisco/Hatteras hotspot was to stabilize the beach until the long-term solution could be constructed.

“What I’m hearing is that we’re going to look at short-term nourishment to preserve the road. Long-term, we’re going to look at a longer bridge alternative…that extends the bridge from around the bathhouse area into the sound to avoid that whole area,” said Task Force Chair and Dare County Manager Bobby Outten.

Perhaps the most complex issue that the working group will address in its work is the South Dock Ferry terminal on Ocracoke Island for the Hatteras/Ocracoke vehicle ferries.

Located on the north end of Ocracoke Island, most of the visitors to Ocracoke arrive through the terminal — but the highway and the terminal are increasingly at risk. Shoaling in Hatteras Inlet has doubled the transit time for ferries, and the terminal itself is endangered.

“The…problem you have is that the physical South dock structure is eroding away extremely quickly to the point where we declared this an emergency,” Hallac said.

Even if the South Terminal can be saved, keeping Ocracoke linked through the South Terminal may not be possible. NC12 between the ferry docks and the village is subject to frequent overwash and damage.

A potential solution, and one that is currently being studied, would move the South Terminal to a location just to the north of the island’s pony pens.

However, moving the terminal would exacerbate the existing problem that the longer ferry runs are negatively impacting Ocracoke’s economy, something Ocracoke representative Bob Chestnut pointed out in his remarks.

“If you have the same number of ferries and your trip is twice as long, you can only carry half as many. So it does…impact the people that come in,” he said.

There are several concepts for the plan, but the most current NCDOT studies were not included in the working group’s information, and the decision was made to table the discussion until the November meeting when the material will be available.

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  1. Outer Banks Voice needs to correct: ” The South Ferry Terminal is the dock for the Hatteras/Ocracoke Passenger Ferry.”

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