Buoy positions cause safety concerns during dredging projects

Buoy positions cause safety concerns during dredging projects
Published: Oct. 21, 2022 at 6:35 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - From beach renourishment projects to clearing waterways of built-up sand, dredging is common in Southeastern North Carolina.

But there are some safety concerns with buoys in the inlets, like the Lockwood Folly Inlet or Carolina Beach Inlet, before, during and after dredging.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in contact with the Coast Guard almost daily, they’re the ones responsible for moving the buoys when there is a dredging project, but the Coast Guard also covers hundreds of miles up and down our coastline, so there are times when buoys don’t get removed before the start of a project.

“The safety for all our practices is paramount. Mother Nature can be fickle. Sometimes the elements of our coast can be very dynamic. We can dredge that day and next week a nor’easter can come in and change. So, that’s why it’s always important for mariners to look at our surveys and be safe when they go in an inlet,” Bob Keistler, the chief of civil works programs with the Wilmington branch of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said. “Sometimes the buoys Mother Nature moves back and forth for authorized to dredge and fall in deep water. Sometimes it moves in always in the perfect spot. Because by the nature of the channel, or because we’ve had to move to dredge. We coordinate the Coast Guard and they come in and adjust those the best they can when they have to coordinate with the coast guard all the time.”

It’s caused some safety concerns for boaters and fishermen out on the water. Keistler said sometimes the process of starting a dredging project happens faster than expected and it doesn’t give the Coast Guard time to remove buoys from inlets. Dredging will still take place, but the buoys will likely be moved from their original spot while the dredging happens.

The Coast Guard is contacted right away to replace the buoys, but in the meantime, they want to remind boaters to keep an eye on surveys once dredging is finished in case the buoys aren’t in the right place.

Captain Scott Collins with SeaTow in Wrightsville Beach is also sending a message to people before they get into any trouble on the water.

“You know, being out there if you’re not keeping up with the current conditions and status of the inlets, you know, you normally naturally trust the buoys. And if the buoys are not in the right place, you can get into trouble real quick,” Collins said. “Don’t go for something if you have a bad feeling or if you’re unsure if you know, a channel or the situation that you’re in, you know, don’t push it.”

To check the latest surveys with the USACE, click here.

A spokesperson for the USACE sent WECT the following list of current and upcoming dredging projects:

  • Government Plant (our own shallow draft vessels):
  • MERRITT – is currently dredging in Lockwood Folly Inlet. They began on Oct. 3rd and hope to complete the dredging sometime next week.
  • MERRITT – after Lockwood Folly Inlet, it will move to Carolina Beach Inlet to dredge for about 7 days.
  • Contract Dredging:
  • AIWW – we have 2 Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway contracts that will begin in mid-to-late November. Dredging for both contracts will be completed by the end of March.
  • Areas to be dredged for AIWW Contract #1 are: New River Inlet Crossing, a portion of New River between the AIWW and the Hwy 172 bridge, and two locations behind Onslow Beach adjacent to Camp Lejeune.
  • Areas to be dredged for AIWW Contract #2 are: Shinn Creek/Masonboro Inlet Crossing, Lockwood Folly Inlet Crossing, Shallotte River Crossing, and Shallotte Inlet Crossing
  • In the Cape Fear River, they will start 2 contracts in November:
  • Contract 1: will dredge 2 channels near Bald Head Island and the sand will be placed on the beaches at Bald Head Island.
  • Contract 2: In Wilmington, will dredge 2 turning basins, one in the vicinity of the State Ports, and the other near Live Oak Bank Pavilion. The material will be placed on Eagle Island.