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Dredging Project Closes Island at Hammocks Beach State Park

Home >> Newsroom >> Press Releases >> Dredging Project Closes Island at Hammocks Beach State Park
Michael F. Easley, Governor
William G. Ross, Jr., Secretary

Release Note: 
Charlie Peek
Release Date: 
Monday, March 26, 2007

Dredging Project Closes Island at Hammocks Beach State Park

Raleigh -- Bear Island at Hammocks Beach State Park will be closed to visitors and ferry service to the island will be suspended beginning Sunday to allow for an emergency dredging project in the channel route to the island, according to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.

The target date for completing the project and restoring ferry service is May 25. The mainland portion of the park, including the visitor center, will maintain regular visitor hours.

During the winter, an unexpected amount of shoaling -- sand infiltration into the channel -- essentially blocked most visitor access to the island during periods of low tide. The state parks system decided to seek emergency permitting for dredging from the state's Divisions of Coastal Management, Marine Fisheries and Water Quality, the Wildlife Resources Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A more extensive dredging project had already been planned for winter 2007-08.

"We are extremely grateful to the permitting agencies for their timely help in addressing a critical problem at Hammocks Beach," Lewis Ledford, director of the division, said. "We've also had important support from the local community. Hopefully, these combined efforts will allow the park to reopen the island and restore ferry service before the Memorial Day weekend with minimal disruption of the busy tourist season."

Shoaling in the ferry route through Cow Channel has been constant since ferry operations began in the early 1960s. The problem has worsened in recent years due to hurricane activity, particularly in the half-mile stretch of the channel nearest the island. During low tides, the park has used 11-passenger skiffs to ferry passengers rather than its 40-foot, 28-passenger boats. School groups could not visit the island during the day and rangers became concerned about responding to emergencies there.

Under the Coastal Area Management Act, dredging is normally permitted only from mid-November through March. The emergency permits allow about 24,000 cubic yards of compatible sand to be moved from Cow Channel to the island's ocean beach. The Division of Water Resources has identified $800,000 to fund the project. The park remains committed to the larger dredging project in coming months, which calls for 4,900 linear feet of the channel to be cleared to a width of 50 feet and a depth of nine feet.

During April and May, the park will continue to offer public interpretive programs and organized group programs, including marsh cruises on the Intracoastal Waterway and around Huggins Island.