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‘Its gut wrenching,’ Lockwood Folly Inlet reaches critical level as dredging project sees delays

Published: Jun. 18, 2021 at 6:03 PM EDT
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HOLDEN BEACH, N.C. (WECT) - Lockwood Folly Inlet has a history of filling up with sand and creating a dangerous situation for people on the water, but leaders say they’ve never seen it this bad before.

The inlet between Oak Island and Holden Beach has already seen one boat flip this week.

While no one was hurt in the crash, Captain Cane Faircloth, the president of the Lockwood Inlet Association, says it’s only a matter of time before it happens again.

“It’s gut wrenching to watch people come in and out of it, especially when there’s a swell to watch boats get hung up, you’re just waiting for that moment for the next one to capsize,” said Faircloth.

The $600,000 project is already paid for by the Shallow Draft Inlet Fund, the town of Holden Beach, the town of Oak Island, and Brunswick County. The issue is the US Army Corps of Engineers says its going to be July before they can get a dredge out there.

During the pandemic, dredging ceased and crews haven’t been able to keep up with the workload since then, explained Faircloth.

”We were hoping there would be a cycle in March, and from March, it got pushed to April. And from April, got pushed to May. In May, we were told in 30 days the dredge should be here,” explained Faircloth. “We’re failing as a state to protect the tourism and the tourists that come to the beach, and protecting their lives by giving water rescue a chance to save them.”

The inlet is just 1-2 feet deep at low tide, a level so dangerous the Coast Guard removed its navigation buoys and deemed the inlet unsafe.

Oak Island Water Rescue Chief Tony Young says they know people are still using the inlet and he’s concerned about safely accessing the area to save someone in trouble.

“We would hate to have someone be hurt and waiting for us to get to them and we can’t get there because there’s no safe way for us to approach them,” said Tony Young. “Somebody goes through there at a high speed, and there’s only a foot and a half of water and the motor hits the bottom, that stops the boat. It can go aground, or strand them on the sandbar and turn sideways into the waves, and then they roll over — and now there’s a potential for people under a boat or separate from the boat in the breakers. There’s all kinds of bad things that happen in that situation — none of it’s good for the boaters or for the rescuers.”

It’s an area that’s historically troublesome, but experts say they’ve never seen it this bad, and they’re pleading with leaders to keep Lockwood Folly Inlet at the top of the priority list to avoid a tragedy. Faircloth is asking people to write to congressional leaders to bring more attention to the issue.

”We’re at the point that we’re going to start losing lives. Is it gonna take a family of six dying out there this weekend to maybe get them to pay attention? Let’s save a life, let’s do whats right,” added Faircloth.

Both organizations and the Coast Guard are warning people to avoid the inlet until the work is complete.

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