MOREHEAD CITY — The state Division of Coastal Management is accepting public comment on a proposal from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to eliminate the “window” in which hopper dredging is allowed at the state ports of Morehead City and Wilmington.
The federal agency says the move would increase the availability of dredge boats and ensure the work can occur year-round, on a timely basis.
DCM, which is part of the state Department of Environmental Quality and administers the Coastal Area Management Act, must decide whether the proposal is consistent with the state’s coastal management program.
Those interested should submit written comments by Wednesday, Nov. 25 to Daniel Govoni, Federal Consistency Coordinator, 400 Commerce Ave., Morehead City, NC 28557, or by email to Daniel.Govoni@ncdenr.gov.
Comments will be considered in developing the state’s consistency response. Notice of the decision will be provided upon request.
The proposal would remove the Dec. 1 to April 15 annual environmental dredging window for maintenance dredging and bed leveling for the state harbors.
In its draft environmental assessment, or EA, for the elimination of the dredging window, the ACE states, “Maintenance dredging of existing channels will result in minor and short-term impacts to water quality, noise, benthic (bottom-dwelling) organisms, important fisheries and protected marine reptiles and mammals and critical habitat.”
However, it adds, “Hopper dredge availability is limited, making it very challenging to adequately maintain the (Wilmington) District’s two deep draft navigation projects, Wilmington Harbor and Morehead City Harbor, within the existing environmental window.”
Greg Rudolph, manager of the Carteret County Shore Protection Office, said last month the county supports the proposal.
A hopper dredge is like a vacuum cleaner, it sucks up the material and transports it elsewhere for discharge.
In a letter to the ACE, Mr. Govoni earlier this year stated the Department of Environmental Quality believes the proposed change is “consistent to the maximum extent practicable” with state environmental policies. However, Mr. Govoni in his letter also requested that if the change takes place, the ACE make efforts to reduce potential impacts to aquatic species.
To view the entire draft EA, visit saw-nav.usace.army.mil/FILES/Public_Notice/Wilmington_Morehead_City_Harbors_Maintenance_Dredging_Draft_EA_19Aug2020.pdf.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.