The Masons Inlet dredging project is far ahead of its March 31 deadline with nearly $2.2 million of routine maintenance work being completed by Norfolk Dredging Company.
New Hanover County engineering director Jim Iannucci said the crew first worked along the Intracoastal Waterway and Mason’s Creek area, and is now starting to dredge up toward Masons Inlet.
“They may even finish up as early as next week,” Iannucci said by telephone on Friday, Feb. 22. “They were able to mobilize pretty quickly.”
He said the Chesapeake dredge, with a high amount of horsepower, has done pretty well.
“It’s kind of a no-nonsense plant,” Iannucci said.
The weather moved up the current
maintenance work, which typically operates on a three-year cycle, by one year. Environmental factors like nor’easters and storms create the need for maintenance, but Iannucci said they try to push maintenance events out as far as possible.
The dredging work began on Jan. 11, and the dredge will remain on Figure Eight Island for a separate project following the inlet dredging.
Iannucci met with engineer Chris Gibson, of Gahagan and Bryant Associates Inc., for an update on Thursday, Feb. 21.
“They do pre and post surveys,” Iannucci said. “So they would survey the amount of material that’s taken out of the inlet and then placed. And then they also do monitoring for us as part of the 30-year permit.”
Those surveys are in addition to aerial and yearly surveys and other monitoring methods to make sure the inlet functions properly when work is not being done.
As the dredging project is wrapping up, Walker Golder, deputy state director of Audubon North Carolina, submitted the Mason Inlet Waterbird Habitat Management Plan for the 2012 nesting season to the county on Monday, Feb. 26.
He said the pledging success — the number of birds that survive the fly — is the lowest is has been since 2002.
“We’ve had a significant decline in the number of nesting birds that use the area,” Golder said about the inlet.
He added the decline is a direct result of the habitat being of poor quality.
“We’re not complaining,” Golder said. “We will have some recommendations about what can be done there. … The area has changed a lot, but inlets change all the time.”
The topic of inlet dredging is also ongoing in state legislature, most recently discussed at the legislative caucus on Monday, Feb. 25.
“Dredging funding is something that’s very important to the coastal caucus, Carolina Beach in particular as well as all of our coastal counties,” Rep. Ted Davis Jr. said.
Funding mechanisms for inlet dredging will be discussed at the next coastal caucus meeting, which he said is another combined effort on behalf of local legislators to help other legislators who reside inland understand the importance of issues on the coast.