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Parts of Oregon Inlet too shallow for boats, but help is on the way

Parts of the Oregon Inlet along the Outer Banks are shoaled in, forcing boats to use alternate routes.

Shoaling is when a body of water becomes shallow.

Severe weather from early May caused sand to accumulate underwater, and now the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are working to address the routine issue.

"[The storms] shifted a lot of the material around and so the route that we had traditionally been able to dredge has now just built in," said Todd Horton, chief of waterways management for the Corps of Engineers.

Dredging refers to excavating debris, or sand, from the bottom of bodies of water.

The Oregon and Hatteras inlets usually experience the most shoaling. Crews are currently working on alleviating shoaling along the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry route.

"This is probably one of the most dynamic coastlines [in the U.S.] here in this area," said Dave Connolly, spokesperson for the Corps of Engineers. "So Mother Nature tends to do what she does."

Despite the frequency of shoaling, it still causes impacts.

"Any change in navigable paths is going to affect local mariners [or] any mariners that are transiting from other areas," said Coast Guard Lt. Greg Kennerly. "We do our best to try and communicate that."

The Corps of Engineers plans to go out Sunday to dredge up areas marked by the Coast Guard.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly said the Coast Guard would dig up unsafe areas of sand. It has been updated to reflect that work is done by the Corps of Engineers.

Celeste Gracia covers the environment for WUNC. She has been at the station since September 2019 and started off as morning producer.
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