Bogue Inlet gets a much-needed dredging and the spoils are used to replenish Emerald Isle Beach
The town of Emerald Isle, N.C., has completed an $11.4 million dredging project that has moved the ocean-end of Bogue Inlet 3,500 feet to the west, and has replenished the town’s storm-
ravaged beach, according to Frank Rush, town manager. Bogue inlet is one of five in the state threatened by silting. Navigational buoys were removed from two of the inlets after federal funds for dredging shallow-draft waters were eliminated.
In early June the Coast Guard began re-establishing buoys marking the recently deepened and realigned channel. The Army Corps of Engineers conducted a survey June 6, and determined the shallowest depth of water is 7 feet at mean low water.
Rush says the town’s project brought the inlet depth to 17.5 feet for its first 7,000 feet, but did not touch another 14,000 feet of channel that connects the inlet to the Intracoastal Waterway. An emergency federal appropriation funded U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredging in that section this year, he says.
“We’re hoping that the Senate will appropriate money for Bogue Inlet” for the next fiscal year, Rush says.
The town’s project was conceived in 2002 in response to the movement of the Bogue Inlet channel to the east, toward the shore of Emerald Isle, at a rate of 100 feet a year until up to 60 neighborhood homes and a Coast Guard station were threatened by erosion, Rush says. The answer was to cut a new channel 3,500 feet from the town, or halfway between Emerald Isle and Bear Island to the west. The high-quality sand from the inlet was deposited along the town’s 4.5-mile-long beach, increasing the beach depth up to 160 feet, Rush says.
“The channel has swung back and forth like a pendulum through the floodway over time,” he says. “Prior to the project, it had swung right up to Emerald Isle, and threatened eight homes and a public road that were protected by sandbags, directly adjacent to the floodway. Over 60 homes were at risk if we did nothing.”
Rush says engineers expect the channel to continue to migrate. “It could go east, it could go west,” he says. Experts predict a return to the east, toward Emerald Isle, at a rate of 100 feet per year, he says. The conservative estimate is that the town has bought itself 15 years before the channel will have to be moved again. But dealing with nature and storms, there are no guarantees, he says.
To stall the return of the channel to the town, engineers designed a sand bar 2,200 feet long across the intersection of the old channel and the new one to divert water into the new channel, Rush explains.
Improvement of navigation in Bogue Inlet was only an afterthought, Rush says. “You have to keep in mind that our project actually started out as a beach nourishment project.” Moreover, “when our project was born, there was no question about the federal government” paying for channel dredging. “It’s just within the last year that issues came out of the federal government that there is no money for these shallow-draft dredgings. It’s not good from a navigational standpoint. We’ve got a great new channel out there and it’s difficult to get to it.”
Local Notice to Mariners announcing the re-establishment or shift in navigation aids will continue through Broadcast Notices to Mariners over VHF-FM radio channel 22. These changes can also be found at www.navcen.uscg.gov/lnm.