An Outer Banks boating channel is impassable because of sand, officials say
The U.S. Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers are working to open a new boating channel at Oregon Inlet at North Carolina's Outer Banks because of shoaling on the existing route.
The two federal agencies warned Friday that the channel had become impassable because of shifting sands after a nor'easter two weeks ago.
"The inlet is very dynamic. Conditions do change based on weather, sea conditions, tidal conditions," said Todd Horton, of the Army Corps of Engineers. "Oregon Inlet, in particular, we survey this probably every seven to 10 days. "
What's different about this shoaling is how quickly it happened, with the storms, Horton said. "And it's also coming into a holiday weekend, where safety is a big concern," he said.
That's why both the Army Corps and Coast Guard issued alerts.
"The portion of the marked federal channel along the Marc Basnight Bridge between Buoys 17 and 21 is completely shoaled in … and unnavigable for most vessels," the corps said in a press release Friday.
An Army Corps inspection last week found the channel around the Basnight Bridge was down to two to three feet deep in places — too shallow for dredging. That forced officials to look for a new channel, Coast Guard Lt. Greg Kennerly said.
"We're going to try and mark a new navigable channel alongside the Army Corps, to mark best water. A lot of the locals are already running it, even though it's unmarked," Kennerly said.
A spokesperson at Oregon Inlet Fishing Center told WFAE the channel changes have not affected their charter fishing business but might affect less experienced boaters who rely on channel markers.
"Our captains are fishing every day," she said.
The Army Corps plans to dredge the new route beginning Sunday. The Coast Guard said it should have new markers in place by Friday, just in time for the Memorial Day weekend.
In its own notice, the Coast Guard said it's not closing the waterway.
"Boaters choosing to transit through this channel do so at their own risk and should use extreme caution," the Coast Guard said. "The Coast Guard and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are currently coordinating and actively investigating other potential areas where a marked channel can be established to provide access to and from Oregon Inlet."
The nor'easter caused high seas and coastal flooding and contributed to the collapse of two houses into the ocean at Rodanthe.