The Corps have recently assumed power to create a temporary restrictive zone to protect the bridge if needed. The Coast Guard also said that the channel was too shallow for its search-and-rescue vessels. “We recognize the importance of this gateway for vessels traveling in and out of the Oregon Inlet and will continue to do everything possible to re-open the channel,” Donnie Potter, chief of the Physical Support Branch with the Corps’ Wilmington District, said in the statement.
A survey last week had shown the federal channel with a depth of 6 feet under the navigation span of the Bonner Bridge and less than 2 feet on the seaward side. The Currituck, which pumps dredge spoil into its hold then usually takes it past the ocean bar for dumping, will work on deepening the channel to 14 feet, the statement said. Shoaling can be rapid, especially if winds are out of the northeast. Both dredges were docked Monday night in the Port of Morehead City.
$1.2 million of funding was provided after U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C. asked earlier this year for the Corps to shift discretionary money provided in last year’s federal appropriations bill. The Corps estimates keeping the channel deep enough for commercial vessels would cost $7 million to $8 million a year. The Corps was allocated $2 million in fiscal year 2015 for all of Manteo (Shallowbag Bay), and Oregon Inlet.