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Coastal fishermen: Oregon Inlet problems 'devastating'

Posted January 5, 2012
Updated January 6, 2012

The Oregon Inlet is often too shallow for commercial fishermen to navigate due to sand that has filled the channel.
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— Imagine Interstate 40 being shut down, with no access to Raleigh, Durham or Research Triangle Park, no trucks able to unload their cargo and stores closing because of the lack of goods. That’s what some fishermen are facing on North Carolina’s coast.

Their highway, the Oregon Inlet, is often too shallow for commercial fishermen to navigate due to sand that has filled the channel. They’ve spent more than a quarter of the past year with no highway to get commercial fishing boats in or out.

The same thing happened early last year when the inlet was shut down for more than two months and again after Hurricane Irene.

Gov. Bev Perdue convinced the federal government to step up with a large dredge and clear the channel. She has vowed to keep working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to keep the inlet open.

The Corps of Engineers says it has a fraction of its original budget to keep the channel clear. That budget barely covers the cost of routine surveys and leaves little for the thousands of dollars a day it takes to operate a dredge.

Mike Daniels, with the Wanchese Fish Company, says dredging is not a permanent solution. Some on the coast are renewing their plea for a jetty along the north side of the inlet to stop the flow of sand. A jetty would cost $50 million and have significant environmental impact. The federal government nixed the idea in 2003.

“We've built boats. We've built fish houses. We've committed to staying here,” said Daniels, who says he feels like his community and livelihood have been forgotten.

Without a better solution, Daniels says, his community will die. The only grocery store in the village has already shut down.

“We need some help, and right now, we don't believe we're getting any,” he said.

NC coastal fishermen: Oregon Inlet problems 'devastating' Inlet problems 'devastating' for coastal fishermen

Mark Vrablic, who runs Etheridge Seafood, calls the problem “devastating.” He said he would normally have a cooler full of fish. On the day a WRAL News photographer visited, the cooler was empty, except for a box of collard greens Vrablic’s uncle brought home for dinner.

“There's never been an employee laid off at this company for lack of work,” he said. “We love our employees. They've been good to us. We've been good to them, but we all know the bank account is dwindling down.”

Some fish house workers, like Tony Gibbs, are being kept on the books with minimum hours. The married father of three says he and his family had a tough Christmas.

“You go from 40 hours (a week) to 20 hours, and there goes half your livelihood. So, it affects us big time,” Gibbs said.

Recent dredging made it possible for smaller boats to get into the inlet Thursday. By Monday, the fishermen hope some of the bigger boats can do the same. The larger boats have been taking their catch to Virginia for the past two months.

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  • jbyrd Jan 6, 2012

    jayncmike and RM24

    We are no talking about mud slides or rare acts of nature.
    Those sand shoals which are the Outer Banks are in constant motion. Those shoals have been in constant flux for millions of years and aint gonna stop just because someone builds a structure on them and the average taxpayer should not be expected to pay for someone's foolish investments. NOT only is it a poor investment but they are doing extensive damage to a fragile environment.

  • fayncmike Jan 6, 2012

    "So I guess then from now on if bridges are torn down or buildings destroyed from mother nature then we should leave them like she left it huh? After all you can't be saying that the people of Raleigh/Cary/inland are more important than those at the beach are you? No you simply only care when something does not go your way. You just think as long as you can take your trip to be beach all is well in your world. Oh yeah, we can't clean mud slides or rock falls in the mountains either.
    RM24"

    RM24, it's just typical, Me me me people's thinking. As long as they can drive their huge Pachyderms to the, "All you can eat" buffets and cram tons of food into their huge bellies they think all is well in the world.

  • Krimson Jan 6, 2012

    All that money spent cleaning up after Irene and the tornado... what a waste...

  • RM24 Jan 6, 2012

    So I guess then from now on if bridges are torn down or buildings destroyed from mother nature then we should leave them like she left it huh? After all you can't be saying that the people of Raleigh/Cary/inland are more important than those at the beach are you? No you simply only care when something does not go your way. You just think as long as you can take your trip to be beach all is well in your world. Oh yeah, we can't clean mud slides or rock falls in the mountains either.

  • jbyrd Jan 6, 2012

    Get to the root of the problem. Beach renourishement for those seaside mansions, closing new inlets that naturally form. Those 2 alone create most of the problem. Let mother nature do her thing and you would be surprised how much smaller the problem would be to keep Oregon inlet along with many other inlets in good shape.

  • Wilmington_North Carolina Jan 6, 2012

    All the Raleighites that are up in arms about this article...do everyone a favor and cancel your "beach week 2012" plans. The money spent on NC inlets is pale in comparison to yearly NCDOT roadwork in the paved jungle of RDU.

  • countrycre Jan 6, 2012

    The Corps of Engineers squanders more money and absolutely does not support the fisherman! Bandaids are constantly used when enough "stink" is raised instead of coming up with a permanenet fix to the problems. Folks have to die in numbers in order to gain attention to problems. Bogue Inlet is a prime example of the same scenario as Oregon Inlet. Marker buoys are not in the correct place marking the channels and boats have capsized risking equipment and lives. When is something going to be done?!

  • haggis basher Jan 6, 2012

    ""The environmentalists are economic terrorists, especially around Hatteras Island. Cricket at the lake"

    Thats so funny since its the "environment" that brings almost everyone, including these fishermen, to to area.......destroy it and almost everyone will leave.

  • haggis basher Jan 6, 2012

    "Why do taxpayers have to pay so software engineers who live in Clayton but work in RTP can keep their jobs?"

    They don't. They pay for an interstate system all can use and one that delivers the food and everything else you use.
    No-one but these fishermen need the inlet that deep and any advantage to the State of them being there is extremely unlikely to come close to keeping it dredged.
    The State cannot function without the Interstates, it can without these Commercial Fishermen.

  • fayncmike Jan 6, 2012

    "fayncmike. I don't believe pollution is the issue here other than your use as a red herring.
    The Fox"

    Did you not bother to read the comment I was responding to? My reply is spot on to it. For your edification here AGAIN is the remark I responded to.

    "The environmentalists are economic terrorists, especially around Hatteras Island. Cricket at the lake"

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