US Army Corps of Engineers set to complete dredging of dangerously shallow Brunswick County inlet

The area between Oak Island and Holden Beach had gotten so shallow that boats were in danger of crashing and flipping over
Published: Aug. 27, 2021 at 5:59 PM EDT
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HOLDEN BEACH, N.C. (WECT) - Dredging is finally underway in Lockwood Folly Inlet, an area fishermen, rescuers and recreational boaters alike have been eagerly awaiting the much needed maintenance.

The area between Oak Island and Holden Beach had gotten so shallow that boats were in danger of crashing and flipping over.

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

Leaders hoped to get the US Army Corps dredge down this spring, but due to several delays, crews couldn’t make it down until early August.

US Army Corps of Engineers says there’s several factors that play into their dredging schedule. Because they only have four vessels that work all across the entire east coast, they have to prioritize projects very carefully.

Things grow even more challenging, given the size of the shallow draft inlet. The only ship in the fleet that can clear the channel is the side caster dredge, called the Merritt.

Elements like public safety, commerce and the source of the funding play into the order USACE tackles its projects, but the agency also isn’t immune to equipment breakdowns, COVID-19 delays, storms, or having to respond to emergencies around its coverage area, which stretches from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico.

Despite the obstacles, leaders were happy to be back to maintain Lockwood Folly, where they aim to dredge the channel every few months.

“We’re here to help. We don’t like it anymore than they do. If we could just pick up everything and come right away to all these areas that need us to dredge, we absolutely want to do that, but we’re just — we have constraints that we have to take into consideration, and again we have to prioritize, but if we can get there, we’re going to,” said USACE Chief of Navigation Jeremy Smith.

The dredging of the inlet was funded by the town of Holden Beach, Oak Island and Brunswick County. The project cost rang in at $600,000. No federal dollars were used.

The dredging kicked off in early August and is expected to wrap up in the next week.

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