Big Foot Slough channel goes past Big Foot Island, a dredge spoil island just outside Ocracoke. Photo: C. Leinbach

OCRACOKE – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to start this weekend work using a contracted dredge to clear critical shoaling in Bigfoot Slough just outside the N.C. Ferry Division’s Ocracoke-Silver Lake Terminal.

There are no planned changes to the state ferry schedules, but people planning a trip should check with the ferry terminals for any updates.

The dredging operation is expected to begin sometime this weekend and take about 50 days, depending on weather and sea conditions.  

“We’re very thankful to partner with the Corps of Engineers,” said Ferry Deputy Division Director for Operations Jed Dixon. “Shoaling continues to be a serious issue on the coast. The Corps has always responded quickly when we’ve had urgent requests.”

Shoaling occurs when waves push sand on the seabed and create areas where it is too shallow for boats to move through easily.

Dredging ships use tools to excavate and move sand so that boats can more easily navigate those waters.

The fall and winter are less busy than the summer.

However, these dredging efforts will result in a deeper, wider channel that will enable the Ferry Division to return to service next year the larger sound-class ferries to the N.C. Ferry System’s two longest routes.

Real-time updates on weather or mechanical delays on the Cedar Island and Swan Quarter routes can be found on the Twitter feed @NCFerryPamSound.

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  1. An historic recollection… it was shoaling that brought the Portsmouth and Shell Castle Island’s prominence in North Carolina’s shipping operations to an end.. there was no dredging available to come to the rescue. Those shipping operations moved for a while across the inlet to Ocracoke. (And, then, the 1846 hurricane would impact that.)

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