Officials expect to start Old Ferry Channel dredging in December

Cape Carteret residents along Deer Creek appear so far to support financially contributing to a dredging project for the area. (Brad Rich photo)

CAPE CARTERET — Carteret County officials hope to begin dredging Old Ferry Channel, in Bogue Sound between Cape Carteret and Emerald Isle, and probably at least some of Deer Creek in Cape Carteret in December.

The work would need to be finished in April.

Greg Rudolph, manager of the County Shore Protection Office, which plans and oversees dredging projects, said Tuesday he expects to make a final determination on the configuration of the project in October, go out for bids from contractors in November and award a contract and get underway in December.

The office just did a shellfish survey, which is a crucial factor in whether the county will get the state permit to do the work, Mr. Rudolph said. He’s waiting for those results. Dredging permit applications can be denied by the state if the proposed work is expected to damage significant shellfish resources.

In addition, Mr. Rudolph said he’s waiting for Cape Carteret’s determination of whether it and/or local property owners along Deer Creek will participate financially in the Deer Creek portion of the project. Deer Creek provides water access to Bogue Sound for five neighborhoods in town.

Town commissioners in July voted to authorize Town Manager Zach Steffey to establish a process to address potential local financial participation.

“I know the town has done some outreach to the property owners,” Mr. Rudolph said Tuesday.

The town last month sent a letter to owners along some portions of the creek. It states the Deer Creek potion of the project is estimated to cost $210,000, with two-thirds of that from the state and the remaining one-third, $70,000, split between the county, the town and the 30 property owners, with the goal of dredging to a consistently navigable depth. Each property owner could pay about $550. The overall project is expected to cost close to $1 million, according to Mr. Rudolph.

Some town officials and residents are concerned about including a portion of Deer Creek immediately east of Yaupon Drive in the dredging project. That’s because of a siltation problem that increased when a stormwater management project constructed by the N.C. Coastal Federation in 2016 failed during and after Hurricane Florence’s torrential rains in September 2018. The flooding rains eroded a berm that separated two stretches of engineered wetlands, one at Cape Carteret Baptist Church and the other at the adjacent Cape Carteret Presbyterian Church on Highway 24.

The federation, an environmental group based in the county, said the wetlands still serve their primary function of filtering pollutants that flow in from stormwater runoff from adjacent Highway 24, but acknowledged the problem.

Although the federation has been working with the state Department of Transportation to fix the berm, NCDOT has pushed the project back to 2022 because of budget issues. The federation is looking for other funds to pay for a fix, but has said it doesn’t expect an immediate solution.

Town officials say the problems have gotten to the point where there’s a sandbar, which, particularly at low tide, makes navigation difficult for all but the smallest boats.

The letter asks that property owners along that stretch to reply whether they are willing to participate.

Commissioner Steve Martin said Tuesday almost all of the 30 property owners who received the letter have expressed willingness to participate financially, and he applauded the response. Mr. Martin, who does not live on Deer Creek, said he considers it an “environmental problem” that needs to be addressed because the opportunity has risen.

Commissioner Mike King cast the sole opposition in the vote to authorize Mr. Steffey to start the process for residents’ financial participation, saying he thought it would set a precedent.

Mr. Martin disagreed Tuesday.

“We are stewards of the water,” he said. “I’m strongly in favor of this. Just because we do it this way this time doesn’t mean we have to every time. No project the town does helps everyone at one time.”

 

Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.

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