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Dare commissioners support amending Hatteras Inlet’s federal authorization

On Feb. 16, Dare County commissioners unanimously passed a resolution supporting “the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers submission to realign the Hatteras Channel to include Barney Slough, Sloop Channel and South Ferry Channel to provide a direct route to the Hatteras Gorge.”

The Corps submission amends the federal authorization to provide safe navigation in Hatteras Inlet.

If accepted, the proposal would put all channels under federal authorization. The original route, called the Historic Hatteras Ferry Channel, was used by ferries and commercial and recreational boats to access the Hatteras Gorge.

But that 1940s channel which was once protected by Hatteras Island closed and is no longer used. The inlet widened from a quarter mile wide in 1993 to 2.3 miles wide in 2020.

Now a horseshoe-shaped route is used by NCDOT ferries to deliver people and goods to and from Ocracoke Island.

Ferries are still running the inlet. However, the South Ferry Channel is blocked up, keeping commercial and recreational vessels away from Atlantic Ocean fishing.

At the same meeting, Dare County commissioners unanimously approved a modification of the recently enacted travel trailer and campground ordinance.

The change, recommended by the Planning Board for unincorporated Dare County, provides design flexibility while imposing a density restriction.

The amendment reads:

“Section 160. 22 (C) PARKS may be comprised of travel trailers sites, camping cabins, alternative camping units, and camping tent sites. The preliminary and the final site plan shall identify the proposed use of each space or camping area. If a PARK is proposed to feature other camping units than travel trailers, a minimum of 50% of all camping spaces shall be designated and used as travel trailer spaces or; the total number of camping cabins and alternative camping units shall be limited to a density of 14 units per acre with the remaining sites, if utilized, devoted to travel trailer camping sites.”

A public hearing was set for Feb. 16. No one submitted comments at that time, however Planning Board Chairman John Finelli wrote a letter prior to the meeting explaining how the density calculation worked.

Board of Commissioners Chairman Robert L. Woodard announced the August-September start for a $17.4 million Colington Road project. The work will elevate some portions of the roadway, widen the pavement and install bike paths. The $17.4 million cost of the long-awaited project is split with construction taking $10.8 million, $4.8 million for right-of-way acquisition and $1.7 million for utility relocation.

County manager Robert L. Outten is pursuing using Zoom for receiving public comment at regularly scheduled board meetings.

Commissioners approved moving a 20-foot drainage easement to follow lot lines rather than cutting across private property along Airport Road. Property owner Stan White made the request.

Commissioners authorized $3,000 for the Monday Night Alive program. The request was presented by Outten, who said the funds would come from contingency.

Commissioner Ervin Bateman, during commissioner comments, recommended a film about opioid abuse on Martha’s Vineyard, available at onislandmv.org. “Addiction is a worldwide problem,” said Bateman.

The commissioners held a closed door meeting to consult with the county attorney and to give instructions regarding a possible real estate transaction.

The board’s next meeting which will be held virtually is set for March 1, 2021 at 9 a.m.

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